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Brian D. Levine.

Levine won’t rule out bid for state office

Outgoing Somerset GOP freeholder would face uphill battle in heavily-Democratic 17th district

By Nikita Biryukov, December 09 2020 10:19 am

Outgoing Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine declined to rule out mounting a bid for state legislature Wednesday.

“I haven’t ruled anything out as of yet. I think I’ll jump in the saddle at some point soon. It could be in the next year or two,” he told the New Jersey Globe. “Maybe not, but maybe.”

The Republican lives in the 17th legislative district, and he’d face an uphill battle there if he chooses to seek one of it’s Democrat-held Assembly seats.

Republicans have held a seat in the 17th district only once since the state adopted its 40-district legislative map in 1973, and that came when late Assemblywoman Angela Perun defected to the Republican party after Middlesex County Democrats dumped her from the ticket.

State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway), then running for his first term in the Assembly, narrowly won that race, defeating Perun 19,556-19,104.

Levine face similar barriers if he mounted another bid for State Senate in the district. He challenged Smith in 2013, but the Democrat won by almost 20 points, 22,920-15,403. It was the closest State Senate race there in 20 years.

There’s a chance the district becomes less safe for Democrats after lines are redrawn, but the chances of New Jersey receiving census data before Feb. 15 appears increasingly less likely. If the data doesn’t arrive by then, the current districts will be in place until races in 2023.

Even if the lines are redrawn next year, Levine doesn’t see the district growing much friendlier to Republicans.

“The one thing I think Democrats and Republicans agree upon a lot — I’ll get in trouble if I say this — is that after each census, each one makes their own districts stronger,” he said. “It’d be nice if there were competitive districts and people could really see.”

Freeholder Brian Gallagher, Levine’s running mate is mulling an Assembly bid in the split 16th legislative district, whose Senate seat is held by Republicans. Democrats hold both seats in the lower chamber.

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