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Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assembly Minority Whip Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) are seeking re-election in the 21st legislative district, which was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Phil Murphy in 2017, and House Democrats and Bob Menendez in 2018.
Democrats Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman hope to flip this Democratic trending district in November, in part by increasing the Democratic margin in suburban Union County which counted for nearly 70% of votes cast in the district in 2017.
The core of the 21st has been in Republican hands for most of the last 50 years, with occasional wins for Democratic Assembly candidates in 1973 and 1989.
In 2011, Bramnick and Munoz ran in the current district that was redrawn after the 2010 Census. A third incumbent, Assemblywoman Denise Coyle (R-Bernards), was redistricted out of the 16th and into the same district as the two Union County incumbents. She did not seek re-election.
When the new 21st was drawn, the district had 4,357 more Republicans than Democrats. Eight years later, there are 4,374 more Democrats than Republicans.
This was Munoz’s first re-election campaign following her appointment to the seat in 2009 after the death of her husband, Assemblyman Eric Munoz. Bramnick went to the Assembly in 2003 after Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) moved up to the Senate in a special election.
Bramnick and Munoz easily won re-election in the district against Democrats Bruce Bergen and Norman Albert, defeating the pair by a combined margin of nearly 30%, and by over 40,000 votes.Munoz got slightly more votes than Bramnick, the only time this has occurred in the district as it is currently drawn, but the difference between the two’s shares of the votes is only 0.1%.
Bramnick and Munoz carried every municipality in the district in 2011, and their lowest victory margin was in Roselle Park, which they won by 7.64%. The ticket won Bramnick’s hometown of Westfield by 23.97%, and Munoz’s hometown of Summit by 27.67%.
Following their re-election, Jon Bramnick was selected to succeed Alex DeCroce as Assembly Minority Leader, following DeCroce’s untimely passing in January 2012. Once Bramnick was voted as Minority Leader, both the State Senate Minority Leader – Kean – and Bramnick were from the same legislative district.2013 was a good year for Republicans in New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie, at the peak of his popularity, won re-election to the by a landslide margin, defeating State Sen. Barbara Buono by a 20%+ and carrying nearly every county in the state, except the Democratic strongholds of Essex County, and Hudson County.
Meanwhile, Bramnick, and Munoz won their re-election bids in another landslide, winning by a combined margin of 29.6% against Democrats Norman Albert, running again, and Jill LaZare, defeating the pair by a combined 34,696 votes. Once again, Bramnick and Munoz carried every municipality in the district, with the closest being Springfield, Albert’s hometown, which the two won by a combined 7.54%. The pair once again won Bramnick’s hometown of Westfield by a 23.5% margin, and Munoz’s hometown of Summit by 23.95%.The 2015 mid-term elections turned out to be a bad year for Republicans in New Jersey.
On Bramnick’s watch, the GOP lost four Assembly seats. Democrats flipped both seats in the 11th district, one seat in the 16th District — which they won by less than 100 votes — and won a seat in the 1st district.
In the 21st, Bramnick and Munoz faced off again against LaZare and David Barnett and won re-election by a smaller combined margin of 18.8% against LaZare and Barnett, defeating the pair by around 12,500 votes.
Unlike their past two re-election wins, Bramnick and Munoz failed to carry every municipality in the district, with Roselle Park voting for the Democratic pair by 11.74%, and Springfield voting for them by a smaller margin of 2.57%. Bramnick and Munoz carried Westfield by a margin of 21.87%, and Springfield by a margin of 8.32%.
Bramnick’s hope of gaining back the four lost Assembly seats in 2017 were dashed by the perfect storm of an unpopular governor, a gubernatorial race that favored the Democrats, and an increasing suburban backlash against President Trump and the Republican party which culminated in 2018 for now with the loss of four Congressional Seats in New Jersey to the Democrats, including the 7th district, the home of Westfield, the largest municipality in the 21st District.
This backlash against the Republicans was made clear in the 21st district, where Bramnick and Munoz won re-election by a combined margin of only 4.2% against Lacey Rzeszowski(D-Summit) and Bruce Bergen, defeating the pair by a margin of only 5,589 votes.
For the first time, Bramnick and Munoz lost the Union County portion of the district, which counted for 69.2% of the districts votes in 2017, by a margin of 1.72%. They lost Westfield, by a margin of 2.48%, a far cry from 2011 when they won it by nearly 24%. Bramnick and Munoz however did well, but not as well as in the past in the Morris and Somerset county portions of the district, carrying the two municipalities in Morris County, which account for 8.48% of the districts vote in 2017, by a 10.2% margin. They carried Somerset, which accounted for slightly over 1/5th of the districts votes in 2017 by a margin of 19.6%. The pair lost Bramnick’s hometown of Westfield by 2.48% and Munoz’s hometown of Summit by a 10.12% margin.
Bramnick and Munoz are going to go into November, appear to be fighting their most difficult re-election bid yet.
Bolstered by the flipping of the 7th Congressional District by Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) in 2018, Mandelblatt and Gunderman, hope to be able to flip this seat of Republican power into the Democratic column.