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Dr. Julia Hankerson. (Photo: Suzanne Kulperger via Facebook).

Democrats to switch Assembly candidates in 1st district

Dr. Julia Hankerson will join race to oust McClellan, Simonsen

By David Wildstein, August 26 2021 9:56 am

A Democratic candidate for State Assembly in the 1st district has dropped out of the race and will be replaced on the ticket on September 2 by Dr. Julia Hankerson, a former state Department of Human Services official.

Christopher Wilson is leaving his own race to spend more time working to turn out Democratic voters in Cumberland County in the upcoming general election, according to a local political leader who requested anonymity and was not authorized to speak publicly about the candidate switch.

Hankerson, who has sought local office in Woodbine three times without success, is expected to be formally selected by Democratic county committee members in the Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic portions of the 1st district next week.

She will run with John Capizola, Jr. against two freshman Republican assemblymen who flipped Democratic Assembly seats in 2019: Antwan McClellan (R-Ocean City) and Erik Simonsen (R-Lower).

Democrat Yolanda Garcia Balicki is challenger State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland).  Testa flipped the Senate seat in a 2019 special election, ousting interim State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak (R-Middle) for the unexpired term of now-Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis).

Hankerson is a social worker and small businesswoman.  She ran for Woodbine Borough Council as a Democrat in 2013, for mayor as a Republican in 2010, and for council as an independent in 2003.

Democrats have done a late candidate swap before.

In search of their first Democratic Assembly majority in a decade, Democrats sensed an opportunity in what was then a solidly Republican 1st district in 2001.

They pulled their Assembly candidate, Robert Balicki (the husband of Yolanda Garcia Balicki), after the primary election and replaced him with Van Drew, a Democratic freeholder form Cape May County.

Van Drew was viewed as a strong vote-getter.  He had unseated Republican incumbents in the 1994 and 2000 freeholder races and had come within 1,811 votes of ousting Assemblyman Nicholas Asselta in 1997.

In the 2001, Van Drew defeated GOP Assemblyman John Gibson (R-Sea Isle City) by 1,204 votes.

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