Democrats are backing off their bid to get Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) to switch parties in one of New Jersey’s most politically competitive legislative districts.
Howarth had entertained the idea of seeking re-election as a Democrat in 2019 even before State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) announced her own party switch on Monday, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The entreaty now appears to be off as state Democrats have realized the inherent difficulties of securing the Burlington County Democratic organization line for Howarth in March.
Addiego has cancelled her appearance at a Howarth fundraiser tomorrow morning in Trenton. She was advertised as the host of the breakfast to raise money for Howarth’s 2019 re-election campaign.
Getting Addiego, until Monday, she was the Senate deputy minority whip, was a huge coup for Senate President Steve Sweeney and South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross. Campaigns spend millions to flip a Senate seat these days, and this one came without the encumbrance of a campaign.
But in the 8th district, where politics is more localized, it will take Addiego a little time to build relationships with local Democrats. She has a little more than 25 months before Burlington County Democrats decide who will get the line for the 2021 primary.
Local Democrats leaders had clearly telegraphed their resistance to taking Howarth on.
They think they can beat him in November with two Democrats.
Howarth has denied rumors that he would retire at the end of his current term, but that was before Addiego switched parties.
Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Lumberton) told the New Jersey Globe on Monday that he would not consider switching parties.
The relationship between Howarth and Peters is known to be strained.
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.