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State Sen. Kip Bateman has already offered aid to Mark Caliguire and Christine Madrid, and he’s ready to do so again as the situation calls for it.
“I’ve given them a contribution already. As a matter of fact, I hosted a fundraiser for them earlier this year, so I will certainly be doing what I can to help them raise money, because it’s tough, especially because they’re running against two incumbents,” Bateman said. “The numbers aren’t with them, so they’re going to need to raise a lot of money, so I will certainly help them raise money.”
Caliguire and Madrid, both former Republican mayors of Montgomery Township, are running to oust Assemblymen Roy Freiman and Andrew Zwicker in what is one of an increasingly small number of competitive New Jersey legislative districts.
Bateman represents the district in the legislature’s upper chamber.
The 16th is one of only two legislative districts in the state with split registration, and trends there suggest it’s more likely to stay that way than not until at least 2021.
Zwicker won his first term there by a mere 78 votes in 2015. He was re-elected in 2017 by roughly 4,500 votes. Freiman won his first term that year by a slightly-slimmer margin of roughly 3,000 votes.
The electoral landscape in the 16th is grimmer for Republicans now than it was two years ago.
Since the 2017 election, the district has added 6,271 new Democrats and 1,812 new Republicans. The district also gained 1,647 unaffiliated voters.
As of the end of August, there are 15,947 more Democrats than Republicans in the 16th, though there are still 9,849 more unaffiliated voters then Democrats.
“It’s become a very blue district with South Brunswick and Princeton and Manville and Somerville, it’s a very competitive district,” Bateman said. “Last election, I spent more money, I worked harder than I ever have. I only won by 800 and some votes. It’s become very competitive, and I’m sure it’ll be one of the districts that they focus on in 2021.”
Though the trend makes Republicans’ chances look grim, the election is the first for state office since Gov. Phil Murphy took office last January.
With Assembly seats at the top of the ballot this year, it’s possible that Murphy first two years in office will have an outsized effect on the few competitive races in the state, though the same could be true of President Donald Trump.
“It is mid-year elections for the governor, and I think that could help Republicans. We just don’t know if there’s going to be a Trump factor or a Murphy factor,” Bateman said. “I still think that — in the past, traditionally — the independents leaned Republican, and I think if our candidates work hard, they can be successful.”