The anticipated GOP wave never made it to New Jersey, where optimistic Republicans ended their night with a gain of a single congressional seat after a Democratic redistricting map did exactly what it was intended to do, and defeats in some county and local contests they had expected to win.
Republican Thomas H. Kean, Jr. ousted two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in the 7th district, in a contest that was offered up by Democrats in a bid to gain approval of a new map designed to protect other House incumbents.
But three other Democrats – Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) – were viewed as potentially vulnerable, but each won by double-digit margins.
Republicans fell short of bid to take control of the Gloucester County Board of Commissioner and flip the county clerk’s office. Bids to win unseat Democratic countywide officeholders in Passaic, Bergen, Somerset, Burlington and Atlantic fell short.
The outlier was Cumberland County, where Republicans captured a 4-3 majority after three-term incumbent Darlene Barber lost. But this win was more a result of the political strength of State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), the GOP county chairman, than a statewide trend.
There was no apparent repudiation of President Joe Biden in New Jersey despite polling that put his approval ratings upside-down. Republicans had a better year in 2021, capitalizing on voter anger over vaccinations, mask mandates and business closures during Gov. Phil Murphy’s re-election than they did in the Biden midterm.
Kean leads Malinowski by 13,678 votes, a 4.7% margin in a rematch of a 2020 election that ended with Malinowski winning by 1.2%.
The boundaries of the new 7th, presented by Democrats on the redistricting team, were shifted from a district that Biden won by ten points to one were his win margin was four points; in the 2021 governor’s race, Republican Jack Ciattarelli carried the new 7th by 12 points against Murphy.
While Malinowski leads in Union and Somerset counties, he was unable to beat back big margins by Kean in Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex and Warren.
The 7th district seat returns to the GOP four years after Malinowski unseated five-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) in the 2018. This seat was held by Republicans for 86 years, except for a three-year period in the 1950s, until Malinowski flipped the district in Donald Trump’s midterm. This is the first switch of a New Jersey House seat from Democratic to Republican since 2010.
Kim, who ousted a Republican incumbent in 2018, looked like he was in a close race in a newly drawn 3rd district that was designed to protect him. He shed Republican strongholds in Ocean and replaced them with GOP-leaning towns in western Monmouth County and Democratic-leaning municipalities.
Against businessman Bob Healey, whose family put over $5 million into the race, Kim defied some polling that showed the race within the margin of error and leads by eleven points, 55%-44%, and a margin of 24,223. Kim’s victory exceeds his previous wins of 1.3% in 2018 and 8% in 2020.
Under the old lines, in a district Trump carried twice, Kim might have lost. But the new district, which Biden won by gives him a clear path to at least ten more years in Congress if he wants.
Gottheimer leads Republican Frank Pallotta, a former investment banker and Oath Keepers supporter, by almost ten percentage points in the Bergen-based 5th district. In 2020, Gottheimer defeated Pallotta by eight points in a district that became better for Democrats in redistricting.
In the 11th, Sherrill leads her Republican opponent, former Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Paul DeGroot, by 16.5 points, 58%-41%. That’s just shy of her 16.7% win in 2018, albeit in a district that became more Democratic in redistricting than the one she flipped after 34 years of Republican control.
The magnitude of re-election triumphs by Gottheimer and Sherrill will only enhance speculation of their appeal as statewide candidates over the next few years. And there is no indication that either seat will be competitive any time soon.
Among the surprises of election night was the relatively strong showing of Republican Billy Prempeh, a U.S. Air Force veteran who challenged 12-term Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) in the 8th district. The 85-year-old Pascrell leads Prempeh by ten points, 54%-44%; the former Paterson mayor beat Prempeh with 70% of the vote two years ago – in a district that picked up some Republican towns to bolster Gottheimer — and this is Pascrell’s weakest showing since he unseated Rep. Bill Martini (R-Clifton) in 1996.
As of now, Prempeh came closer to unseating a Democratic incumbent than Healey, Pallotta or DeGroot; he trails Pascrell in the Bergen County portion of the 8th by just 174 votes.
The biggest margins belong to Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark) and Rep.-elect Robert J. Menendez (D-Jersey City). Payne won the 10th by 55 percentage points, while Menendez captured the open 8th district seat being vacated by Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) with 73%; that number eclipsed the 64% captured by his father, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, when he made his first bid for the House in 1992
Two Republican congressmen also won landslide re-election bids: Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Manchester) won his 22nd term in Congress with 67%, while Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) received 61%.
Three other Democrats also won re-election on Tuesday: Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) is at 61% against former Collingswood school board member Claire Gustafson in the 1st district; Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) leads GOP challenger Darius Mayfield with 60% in the 12th; and House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Long Branch), leads Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley by a 57%-42% margin in the 6th to retain the seat he first won in 1988.
Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III won a third term by a ten-point margin against Todd Caliguire, a perennial candidate who served as a Bergen County freeholder in the 1990s. All three Democratic incumbents kept their county commissioner seats.
In Burlington County, Democrat James Kostpolis was elected sheriff on his third try with 56% of the vote; interim County Commissioner Allison Eckel won her first full term by the same percentage.
James Hogan, the five-term Gloucester County Clerk and a countywide officeholder on-and-off since the 1990s, will keep his job; he leads Woolwich GOP municipal chair Tom Narolewski by 5,024 votes, 52.6%-47.2%.
In the race for control of the Gloucester County Board of Commissioners, incumbents Frank DiMarco and Denice DiCarlo edged out Harrison Township Committeeman Adam Wingate and 2021 State Senate candidate Steve Pakradooni. Wingate trails DiCarlo by 1,518 votes.
Somerset County, a Republican stronghold until just five years ago, remains completely Democratic. Sheriff Darrin Russo, County Clerk Steve Peter, and County Commissioner Melonie Marano all won by roughly six percentage points.
A bid by Passaic County Republicans to position themselves to take control in 2023 failed. Sheriff Richard Berdnik won his fifth term with 54% of the vote, and Democratic county commissioners Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore also won re-election; 2,661 votes separate Lepore from the top GOP vote-getter, Paterson PBA President Alex Cruz.
The big Republicans win of the night came in Paramus, where Christopher DiPiazza became the first Republican mayor in 20 years, and in Washington Township (Gloucester), where the GOP took control of the township council. Republicans also scored wins in Caldwell, Dumont, Sayreville, and Howell.
But the GOP failed to flip local seats in Evesham, Mount Laurel, Moorestown, Millburn, Palisades Park, Red Bank, Haledon, Woodland Park, Wood-Ridge,
Democrats won mayoral races in Belmar and Eatontown.
In a non-partisan race in Teaneck, three women who ran with the backing of former Senate Minority Leader Loretta Weinberg were elected to the township council.