Click play for audio version of this story
One reason GOP Assembly incumbents Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) could face a tough re-election campaign is the changing demographics of their district.
The 21st district now has 3,607 more Democrats than Republicans, a significant shift since legislative redistricting eight years ago.
In 2011, the 21st had 4,357 more Republicans than Democrats.
Bob Menendez won the district by 837 votes over Bob Hugin in the 2018 U.S. Senate race, while Democratic candidates for Congress carried the 21st by 12,460 votes. In 2017, Phil Murphy won the district by 1,503 votes.
Donald Trump lost the district by 19,759 votes in 2016; Mitt Romney won by 9,614 in 2012.
Bramnick has seen his total number of votes decline.
At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) had little trouble holding the State Senate seat in the same district. Kean was re-elected in 2017 by 6,456 votes. He received 2,296 more votes than Bramnick.
In mid-term elections, he has gone from 27,322 in 2007 to 25,303 in 2011 to 20,024 in 2015. In gubernatorial years, Bramnick has dropped from 45,439 in 2009 to 38,556 in 2013 to 34,283 in 2017.
He could face a challenge running as a Republican in the Trump era, if there is a localization of national issues.
Democrats have no shortage of potential challengers.
Lacey Rzeszowski, who nearly toppled Munoz in 2017, had been considered the front-runner for the nomination. There is a growing belief that she will pass on running this year.
Three former congressional candidates, Scott Salmon, Lisa Mandelblatt and Goutam Jois, are reportedly mulling Assembly bids. Salmon and Mandelblatt did well as fundraisers and both dropped out early and endorsed Tom Malinowski. The two played active roles in Malinowski’s successful bid to oust Rep. Leonard Lance.
Jois refused drop out and finished a dismal third in the Democratic primary, winning just 14% of the vote. He faced criticism for loaning money to his campaign in order to inflate his fundraising numbers and then repay himself without spending it. Jois was also viewed as a no-show for the general election against Lance, instead positioning himself for another run had Malinowski been unsuccessful.
Other possible candidates include former Mountainside council candidate Carlos Gomez, New Providence Democratic Municipal Chair Stacey Gunderman and perennial candidate Jill LaZare.
LaZare lost Assembly bids in 2013 and 2015 and a Senate campaign in 2017.