There is considerable speculation that Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) will join State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) in switching parties and could seek re-election as a Democrat this fall.
Democrats are trying to convince Howarth to join the caucus.
Howarth has a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday morning at the lobbying firm run by former Burlington County GOP chairman Bill Layton. Addiego is the host.
The move could divide Howarth and freshman Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Lumberton), who is not considered a likely party switcher.
Democrats are already preparing a push to take the two 8th district Assembly seats that they almost won in 2017.
Howarth was seeking re-election to a second term on a ticket with Peters, a Burlington County freeholder who entered the race after the primary when incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg dropped out of the race.
Democrats ran former Burlington County freeholder Joanne Schwartz and Mary Ann Merlino, a former mayor of Republican-leaning Waterford.
Howarth finished 645 votes ahead of Merlino and Peters won his seat by just 350 votes over Schwartz. Howarth ran 170 votes ahead of Peters.
In the race for State Senate, incumbent Dawn Addiego (R-Evesham) defeated George Youngkin by 2,637 votes, 52%-48%. Phil Murphy won the 8th with 52%, a 1,496 vote plurality.
The 8th now has 6,694 more Democrats than Republicans. That’s up from 4,184 when the district lines were drawn in 2011.
In 2018, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez carried the 8th with 51%, a 1,767 votes margin. Democratic congressional candidates combined to carry the district by 7,270 votes (54%). In races for freeholder of the Atlantic, Burlington and Camden towns in the 8th district, Republicans won 50.6% of the vote.
The district backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 2,532 votes (51%-49%) and gave Barack Obama a 7,715 vote plurality (54%-46%) against Mitt Romney in 2012.
District 8 might need some minor tinkering when new lines are drawn after the 2020 census.
In 2011, the ideal size of a legislative district was 219,797 people; based on 2017 U.S. Census estimates, that number could increase to 225,141.
The 8th is estimated to have lost 1,280 people since the last census, which means it might have to pick up an additional 7,323 residents.
There has been speculation that Howarth might not run again, although he told SaveJersey, a Republican political news site, that he intends to seek re-election.
Democrats have not won the 8th since 1973, when John Sweeney ousted Republican assemblyman Kenneth Wilkie in the Watergate landslide of that year. Two other Republican incumbents, State Sen. Barry Parker and Assemblyman Clifford Snedeker, still won.
Sweeney was unseated in 1975 by Bordentown mayor Jim Saxton, who went on to serve in the State Senate and, from 1985 to 2009, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This story was updated at 6:05 PM to include information about Howarth’s fundraiser.