Laurie Poppe, who came within 574 votes of winning a State Senate seat in 2017, is now headed to the Superior Court.
Gov. Phil Murphy filed a notice of intent to nominate Poppe, a family law expert who specializes in collaborative divorces, last week. The Senate filed her nomination yesterday.
In 2017, Poppe nearly upset Republican State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg), losing by a narrow 50.5% to 49.6% margin in the 16th legislative district. In that same election, Democrat Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) flipped an Assembly seat vacated by Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough), who was running for governor.
She won Princeton by 4,636 votes and South Brunswick by 3,039, but Bateman carried Hunterdon by 4,499 and by 3,750.
After Bateman announced he was not seeking re-election after 28 years in the legislature – his father spent 20 years in Trenton and became Senate President and the 1977 Republican nominee for governor – Poppe said she was interested in another Senate bid or a shot at an open Assembly seat if Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) or Freiman ran for the upper house.
Peg Schaeffer, the Somerset County Democratic chair, had initially threatened to run Poppe or another Somerset Democrat against Zwicker in the Democratic primary in order to secure senatorial courtesy. For a while, it looked like Senate President Steve Sweeney was going to help her.
Instead, Zwicker was unopposed for the Senate and Democrats picked former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer for his Assembly seat. Poppe was told she would become a judge instead.
If confirmed by the Senate, Poppe will become the second Somerset Democrat who nearly won a legislative seat to go to the bench.
Maureen Vella, who held Ciattarelli to a 534-vote win in 2015 – that was the year Zwicker upset Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Readington) by 78 votes – is now a municipal court judge in Franklin Township.
As a Hillsborough resident, Poppe requires signoff from only Zwicker to get a confirmation hearing.