The election of Jeff Van Drew to the U.S. House of Representatives will trigger a special election next year for his State Senate seat in the 1st legislative district.
The clear front runner for the Senate is Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, a 32-year-old Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart winner who lost his leg in a grenade explosion. Andrzejczak won a special election convention for the Assembly in 2013 and has won the seat three times.
Van Drew would need to resign for the State Senate by January 3, 2019. That would require Democrats to hold a special election convention to fill the 1st district Senate seat until a special election in November 2019 for the remaining 26 months of Van Drew’s term.
Andrzejczak’ s ascension to the Senate will trigger another special election convention to fill his Assembly seat.
One of the reasons Republicans were less than aggressive in recruiting a candidate to replace Rep. Frank LoBiondo was that they saw greater opportunities in the State Senate and Assembly seats next year.
The district includes all of Cape May, part of Cumberland (including Vineland), and three towns in Atlantic.
Donald Trump won 55% in the 1st district in 2016. Republicans have a slight advantage in voter registration – 44,004 to 40,159, with 62,695 unaffiliated voters. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin carried Cape May County with 61% and is ahead in Cumberland by 73 votes.
Republicans view the 1st district as competitive, but have been unable to break Van Drew’s lock, or his ability to help his running mates across the finish line. But without Van Drew on the ballot, the GOP would likely make a big push to pick up a Senate seat in a 2019 special.
Senate President Steve Sweeney would play an outsized role in a special election, and Democrats will assuredly have a fundraising advantage.
State Sen. Chris Brown (R-Ventnor), a fierce rival of Sweeney, is expected to be take the lead for the Republicans.
The Republican most often touted as a Senate candidate is Michael Testa, the Cumberland County Republican chairman.