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State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg.) (Photo: New Jersey Senate Minority Office.)

Bateman will not seek re-election

Open seat race in the 16th district after 28-year legislator announces retirement

By David Wildstein, January 27 2021 2:54 pm

State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Branchburg) will not seek re-election to his 16th district State Senate seat, a move that gives Democrats an edge to flip a Republican State Senate seat.

Bateman, 63, confirmed his retirement to the New Jersey Globe, ending a 28-year career in the New Jersey Legislature.

“After careful consideration and with the support of my family, I have made the difficult decision not to seek reelection to the State Senate. As a lifelong resident of Somerset County, it has been an honor to spend nearly 40 years serving the community I am proud to call home,” Bateman said. “I can’t begin to express how much I will miss serving our constituents. However, our state is still coping with a pandemic and I am committed to using my remaining time in office to help the countless residents who are in desperate need of our support.”

The 16th had been viewed as one the battleground State Senate races in 2021.  Four years ago, Bateman came within just 574 votes of losing his seat to Democrat Laurie Poppe.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) was already planning to take on Bateman, and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) has also been mulling a Senate bid.

The 16th district was redrawn in 2011 to include Democratic strongholds of Princeton and South Brunswick, removing solidly Republican Bridgewater.

Bateman comes from some authentic political lineage.  His late father, Raymond H. Bateman, was the wunderkind executive director of the of the Republican State Committee before winning a special election for the State Assembly at age 31.  He spent ten years in the State Senate, including two years as Senate President, and was the GOP nominee for governor against Brendan Byrne in 1977.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Bateman served as mayor and township committeeman in Branchburg and two terms as a Somerset County Freeholder before winning a State Assembly seat in 1993.  He moved up to the Senate in 2007 following the retirement of Walter Kavanaugh (R-Somerville).

“Although my time in elected office is coming to a close, I will always be a fierce advocate for the people of New Jersey,” Bateman said.  “I’ll never stop fighting to make the Garden State a better place for our kids and grandkids. I look forward to finding new and exciting ways to give back to our neighbors in need.”

Bateman will leave the Senate in January with a long list of legislative accomplishments, including laws that reduced auto insurance premiums and grants for thermal image cameras for local fire departments.

“I have always believed that government works best when we put people before politics,” Bateman stated.  “Good legislators should strive to be good listeners, follow their conscience and vote with the voices of the people they serve in mind. It is my hope that bipartisanship will continue to thrive in the halls of the New Jersey Statehouse long after I cast my final vote in the Senate chamber.”

He said he was “beyond grateful to have had the privilege to work with so many passionate legislators and advocates on both sides of the aisle over the years.”

Bateman pledged to push for approval of the Timothy J. Piazza Law to increase penalties for college campus hazing.

Zwicker captured an Assembly seat in 2015, ousting incumbent Donna Simon (R-Readington) by 78 votes in a once-solidly Republican district that became competitive after 2011 redistricting replaced heavily-GOP Bridgewater with the Democratic strongholds of Princeton and South Brunswick.

He passed up a chance to run for the senate in 2017 and was re-elected to a second term in the lower house in a landslide that helped Freiman beat back Simon’s comeback bid by 3,040 votes to capture the second Assembly seat.

The two Democrats won re-election without a great deal of trouble in 2019. Zwicker ran in first with 27,732 votes, and Freiman got 26,466. Their Republican challengers, former Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire and former Montgomery Mayor Christine Madrid, got about 22,000 votes each.

Bateman is the second state senator to make a retirement announcement.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said earlier this month that she would not seek re-election to a sixth term.

This story was updated at 3:10 PM with comment from Bateman.

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