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Democrats outpaced Republicans in August voter registration in each of the battleground districts for the 2019 mid-term Assembly races.
While some of the numbers may seem small, close races for the legislature are not uncommon. Three contests over the last six years have been won by margins of under 80 votes.
In 2015, Democrat Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) ousted Republican incumbent Donna Simon (R-Readington) by 78 votes, 16,308 to 16,230 in the 16th district.
Democrat Vincent Mazzeo (D-Northfield) defeated GOP Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-Margate) in the 2nd district by a mere 40 votes in 2013, 25,164 to 25,124. In the 38th, Democrat Tim Eustace (D-Maywood) was re-elected by 56 votes against Republican Joseph Scarpa.
Two years ago, Republican Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) won an open Assembly seat by 350 votes. He faces an aggressive challenge to win a second term this year in the 8th district.
Republicans playing defense
In the 21st district, where Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) are seeking re-election, Democrats added 255 new voters compared to just 30 for the Republicans.
Since the 2017 election, the 21st has added 5,076 new Democrats and 1,908 new Republicans. The number of unaffiliated voters has increased by 457. The district now has 5,021 more Democrats than Republicans.
Munoz won her last race by 1,554 votes. Bramnick, who runs his own TV ads and direct mail pieces separately from his running mate, outpolled Munoz by 1,010 votes.
The Union County-based district includes parts of Somerset and Morris counties.
Republicans are defending two seats in the 25th district. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) won a fifth term two years ago by 2,430 votes.
The Morris-based district gained 318 Democrats and 133 Republicans during August.
Registration is up 4,357 Democrats and 1,541 Republicans since 2017. Unaffiliated registration is down by 578.
Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Township), the top vote-getter, is not seeking re-election after 24 years in the legislature. To replace him, Republicans are running Denville Councilman Brian Bergen, a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army helicopter pilot.
Democrats are running Lisa Bhimani, a physician who won 48% against Bucco’s father, State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) in 2017, and Chester Democratic Municipal Chair Darcy Draeger.
August brought 237 new Democrats and 96 new Republicans into the Burlington-based District 8, where Peters is seeking a second term on a ticket with former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield.
Since Peters first won, the 8th has added 2,822 more Democrats and 2,225 more Republicans.
The district has 758 less unaffiliated voters than it did in 2017.
Republicans playing offense
As the GOP seeks to pick up seats in Gov. Phil Murphy’s mid-term election, they face similar voter registration challenges in many of their targeted districts.
The best chance for a Republican pickup is in the 1st district, where State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak (D-Middle) is seeking the unexpired term of the seat held by Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis).
The Cape May-Cumberland district is the only one in the state with Democratic legislators and a Republican voter registration edge. The 1st has 3,130 more Republicans than Democrats.
In August, the district added 206 new Democrats and 138 new Republicans.
Since 2017, the 1st gained 2,548 more Democrats and 1,871 more Republicans. During the same time, the number of unaffiliated voters declined by 3,258.
Andrzejczak faces Cumberland County GOP Chairman Michael Testa, Jr.
Two Democratic assemblymen from Vineland Bruce Land and Matthew Milam, face a pair of Republicans local officials from Cape May: Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen and Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan.
Republicans are also making a play in two districts with a GOP Senator and two Democratic assemblymen.
In the Atlantic-based 2nd, Democrats picked up 382 voters in August and Republicans added 275. There were 384 new unaffiliated voters added last month.
Democrats have added 4,133 new members since the 2017 general election, while Republican voter rolls have grown by 2,309. The number of unaffiliated voters in the 2nd has dropped by 170 since the last election.
Mazzeo and John Armato (D-Buena), who flipped an open Assembly seat two years ago, face Atlantic County Freeholder John Risley and Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther.
The 16th district, which includes parts of Somerset, Middlesex and Mercer counties, added 204 new Democrats in August while the Republicans lost 16. The number of unaffiliated voters increased by 225.
Since the 2017 election, the 16th has added 6,271 new Democrats and 1,812 new Republicans. The district also gained 1,647 unaffiliated voters.
Zwicker beat a Republican incumbent in 2015 and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) won an open seat in 2017. They face two former Republican mayors of Montgomery Township, Mark Caliguire and Christine Madrid.
This is Caliguire’s third consecutive campaign: he finished fourth in a 2017 Assembly bid, running 3,673 votes behind Freiman and 5,192 behind Zwicker. He was defeated for re-election to the Somerset County Board of Freeholders in 2018, losing by 9,364 votes.