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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick).

Murphy praises Zwicker but demurs on county residency politics

Assemblyman’s Senate bid may be dulled over county chair’s desire for senator from Somerset

By Nikita Biryukov, February 05 2021 3:02 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy praised Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) Friday but declined to say whether the State Senate candidate’s residence in Middlesex County should determine whether or not he wins organizational support in Somerset County.

“I’m a huge Andrew Zwicker fan,” he said at Friday’s virus briefing. “I love the guy.”

Zwicker, now on his third term in the Assembly, intends to run for retiring State Sen. Kip Bateman’s (R-Branchburg) seat in the upper chamber.

Somerset County Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, who is also vice chair of the Democratic State Committee, has spoken highly of Zwicker but has made no attempt to hide her preference for a Senate candidate from her county.

That would provide the chairwoman with a lawmaker who could exercise senatorial courtesy over gubernatorial nominations in Somerset.

Zwicker’s district mate, Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) has also expressed interest in the seat, and Laurie Poppe, a Hillsborough attorney and therapist who came within 574 votes of winning the 16th district’s Senate seat in 22017, has asked Democrats to consider her for a run in the district for a seat in either chamber.

At the same time, Schaffer has spoken highly of Zwicker and earlier this week asked the district’s Democrats to hold off on endorsements until county screening committees made their pick of candidates.

“I ask for all municipal and county leaders to keep their powder dry until the selection process is completed, and not make any leadership endorsements or announcements of organizational support for the time being,” she said on Monday.

Murphy, for one, appears to have taken that advice to heart. Though he heaped praise on Zwicker Friday, he sidestepped when asked whether he would endorse the Princeton University physicist.

“Andrew and I had each other at hello, so I’ll leave it at that,” he said. “I think the world of the guy.”

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