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Assembly candidates Lisa Mandelblatt, left, and Stacey Gunderman. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Mandelblatt, Gunderman kickoff Assembly bids

Democrats seek to challenge Bramnick, Munoz in 21st district

By Nikita Biryukov, May 19 2019 1:03 pm

Stacey Gunderman and Lisa Mandelblatt officially kicked off their campaign to oust two Assembly Republican Leaders Sunday.

“We’re running because people all over this state, all over this district have so many of the same concerns,” Mandelblatt told the crowd of roughly 30 people. “They want to make sure that they can have access to affordable healthcare and they want to be able to pay for their prescription drugs. They want their kids in strong schools where they spend their days actively learning not practicing active shooter drills.”

The two women want to challenge Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assembly Republican Whip Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), but must first get through a primary challenge from Jill LaZare.

Though it’s still early in the campaign season, the two candidates feel good about their chances.

The 21st legislative has grown more competitive over the last several years.

In 2015, LaZare placed roughly 6,000 votes behind the incumbents.

That margin shrank dramatically in 2017, when Lacey Rzeszowski lost to Munoz by just 1,554 votes. Bramnick, the top vote-getter that year, beat the Democratic challenger by 2,564 votes.

“These are small gaps, and in a year that it’s going to be a small-turnout election, we can overcome that, and those seats are not guaranteed to them anymore,” said Gunderman, who chairs New Providence’s Democratic Municipal Committee.

The candidates are preparing to build up their ground game for November.

They said they’ll begin canvassing in the coming week and intensify those efforts in the first week of June in preparation of November’s elections.

The two are making their run with the backing of notable New Jersey Democrats, including freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski, whose 2018 bid for the House was backed by Gunderman and Mandelblatt, who sought the seat before dropping out and endorsing Malinowski.

Though he did not personally appear at the launch, the congressman made his support of the two candidates known.

“I support Lisa and Stacey because they know that this is not the only reason they are running. Politics is not their career. It is something they are doing at the point in their lives because it means to achieve a higher end,” Malinowski said in a statement read by Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach. “I know they will do the right thing. I’m eager to get to work.”

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