Home>Articles>Burlco Dems pick LaPlaca, Natale for Assembly in 8th

Gina LaPlaca

Burlco Dems pick LaPlaca, Natale for Assembly in 8th

Linda Hynes gets freeholder nod, Anthony Basantis running for sheriff

By David Wildstein, March 22 2019 6:26 am

The Burlington County Democratic voted last night to award their organization line to Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale for State Assembly in the 8th district.

Westhampton councilwoman Linda Hynes to run for freeholder and Anthony Basantis for sheriff.

Republicans in Burlington County will select their candidates on Saturday.  Sean Earlen, the GOP county chairman, and 14 of 15 Republican municipal chairs, have endorsed Assemblyman Sean Peters (R-Hainesport) and Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield for Assembly after dropping party support from Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham).

Howarth has pledged to seek the nomination, even if he has to run off the line in the June primary.

Democrats have not won the 8th since 1973, when John Sweeney ousted Republican assemblyman Kenneth Wilkie in the Watergate landslide of that year.  Two other Republican incumbents, State Sen. Barry Parker and Assemblyman Clifford Snedeker still won.

Sweeney was unseated in 1975 by Bordentown mayor Jim Saxton, who went on to serve in the State Senate and, from 1985 to 2009, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Natale is a 31-year-old attorney and Evesham Democratic district leader.  His wife, Shannon, works for the Assembly Majority office.

LaPlaca, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, ran in a February special election for the freeholder seat vacated by George Youngkin and lost by just ten votes on the second ballot to Daniel O’Connell.

O’Connell will have party support to run in a November special election for the remaining 26 months of Youngkin’s term.

Hynes, assuming the convention ratifies the screening committee recommendation, would take on incumbent Latham Tiver.   She defeated former Mount Laurel councilwoman Tracey Riley.

Basantis defeated Scott Pearlman, the Palmyra police chief, to claim the organization line.

LaPlaca and Natale emerged as the choice of party leaders from a field that included Pinelands Preservation Alliance activist Kevin Sparkman, retired U.S. Department of Defense engineer Jon Bravo, Anastasia Zuccaro and Brian Price. Bravo lost an Evesham council race in 2016 and Zuccaro was defeated in a bid for the Shamong Board of Education last year.

Republicans almost lost the district in 2017, even though Democrats didn’t actively contest the seats.

Howarth was seeking re-election to a second term on a ticket with Peters, a Burlington County freeholder who entered the race after the primary when incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg dropped out of the race.

Democrats ran former Burlington County freeholder Joanne Schwartz and Mary Ann Merlino, a former mayor of Republican-leaning Waterford.

Howarth finished 645 votes ahead of Merlino and Peters won his seat by just 350 votes over Schwartz.  Howarth ran 170 votes ahead of Peters.

In the race for State Senate, incumbent Dawn Addiego (R-Evesham) defeated George Youngkin by 2,637 votes, 52%-48%.

There may have been some coattails involved: Phil Murphy won the 8th with 52%, a 1,496 vote plurality.

The 8th now has 6,694 more Democrats than Republicans.  That’s up from 4,184 when the district lines were drawn in 2011.

In 2018, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez carried the 8th with 51%, a 1,767 votes margin.  Democratic congressional candidates combined to carry the district by 7,270 votes (54%).  In races for freeholder of the Atlantic, Burlington and Camden towns in the 8th district, Republicans won 50.6% of the vote.

The district backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 2,532 votes (51%-49%) and gave Barack Obama a 7,715 vote plurality (54%-46%) against Mitt Romney in 2012.

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