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Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio at Gov. Phil Murphy's fiscal year 2023 budget address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

DiMaio affirms support for all Assembly GOP incumbents

Pro-incumbent policy may stumble in LD3, where two incumbents are running against each other

By Joey Fox, February 22 2023 3:12 pm

Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) said today that he supports all Assembly Republican incumbents facing primary challenges, though it’s not clear if his caucus will publicly affirm their solidarity like the Senate GOP caucus did two weeks ago.

“We support our incumbents in the Assembly caucus,” DiMaio said. “There’s ongoing discussions with all the districts with regard to candidates.”

While most members of the Republican caucus should escape without serious primary opposition this year, there are a few districts where incumbent assemblymembers might not make it to the general election.

In Ocean County, 9th district Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach) and 10th district Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) were both spurned by the Ocean GOP screening committee in favor of other candidates, putting them at risk of losing the county line. 9th district Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor) got the screening committee’s endorsement, but he may face a challenge at the county convention as well.

26th district Assemblymen Brian Bergen (R-Denville) and Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) also have a primary challenger in former Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany), and more opponents may emerge. And in the 39th district, Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) could face a challenge, though today’s announcement that he’ll run alongside former foe State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) makes that less likely.

Most awkwardly for DiMaio and his caucus, 3rd district Assemblywomen Bethanne McCarthy Patrick (R-Mannington) and Beth Sawyer (R-Woolwich) are both running for re-election – on opposing slates. McCarthy Patrick is running with incumbent State Sen. Ed Durr (R-Logan), while Sawyer has teamed up with Salem County Commissioner Mickey Ostrum (R-Pilesgrove).

Asked about how he plans on approaching the 3rd district race given that supporting one incumbent essentially means opposing the other, DiMaio reiterated his commitment to backing every member of his caucus.

“Once again, we support our incumbents in the caucus,” he said. “We’ll see how that works out.”

In some cases, Republicans are concerned that unfavorable primary results could hobble the party’s attempts to make gains in this year’s legislative elections.

The 39th district is not regarded as a top-tier race, but if former Bergen County Freeholder Todd Caliguire were to win the primary, Democrats might see an opportunity to change that. And as the primary in the 3rd district gets increasingly heated, that could provide an opening for South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross to reclaim the seats he shockingly lost in 2021.

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