The race for New Jersey’s 8th legislative district promises to be one of the most interesting races in November, with Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) on the ballot for re-election and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield running for a first term after defeating Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R-Evesham) by a 2-1 margin in the GOP primary.
Democrats Gina LaPlaca, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, and Evesham attorney Mark Natale hope to flip this district that both Hillary Clinton and Phil Murphy carried by 2.4% margins in 2016 and 2017.
The 8th hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Assembly since John Sweeney (D-Florence) won on his 32nd birthday in 1973. The district has been represented by a Democrat in the State Senate since January, when Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) switched parties after eleven years as a Republican legislator.
In the 2017 State Assembly election, Howarth and Peters prevailed in the closest election in the state – by a margin of 0.8% over Democrats Joanne Schwartz and Maryann Merlino. This razor-thin win for the Republicans comes after the 2015 Republican ticket ran unopposed in the General Election.
Hillary Clinton carried the 8th district, by 2,532 votes, or a margin of 2.44% against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Clinton carried this district, in part due to a narrow victory over Trump in the four most populous municipalities in the district, Hammonton, Pemberton Township, Medford, and Evesham, which combined accounted for over 50% of the total votes cast in this district in 2016. Clinton won the combined vote share at these municipalities by 1.86% over Trump.
Clinton won the remaining vote share of the district outside these four municipalities, which accounted for 49.95% of the districts vote share, by a margin of 3%. Clinton won Pemberton Borough, the one municipality that voted for her, and went on to vote for both Guadagno and Hugin.
In the 2017 Gubernatorial Election Murphy carried the 8th district, by 1,500 votes, or a margin of 2.48% against Republican Kim Guadagno. Murphy only improved .4% on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin, and won in a similar fashion as her, winning the combined vote share from Hammonton, Pemberton Township, Medford, and Evesham by a margin of 3.08%, an improvement from Clinton, but these municipalities only counted for 48.5% of the vote, down 1.5% from 2016.
Murphy won the vote share from the remaining municipalities by 1.9%, which counted for 51.5% of all votes cast in the district in 2017.Murphy won one municipality that Trump and Hugin both won, Berlin Borough, which he won by 6%, when Trump won it by 4% and Hugin won it by 9%
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin carried the 8th legislative district, by 3,459 votes, or a margin of 3.9% against incumbent Bob Menendez.
Hugin was the only statewide Republican to carry this district in the last three years, winning it by a margin of almost 4%. This was in party to a nearly 5% margin of victory in the combined vote share of Hammonton, Pemberton Township, Medford, and Evesham, which accounted for 50.1% of the votes cast in this district in 2018.
The self-funding pharmaceutical company CEO not only was the only Republican to win the combined vote share of these municipalities out of the 3 most recent statewide Republicans, but he won it by more than both Hillary Clinton and Phil Murphy. Hugin also won the remaining municipalities, which counted by 49.9% of the votes cast in this district in 2018, by a margin of 2.8%.
Hugin’s victory in the smaller municipalities, combined with his large victory in the larger municipalities, helped him win this district by nearly 4%. Hugin carried one municipality that both Clinton and Murphy won, Medford. Hugin also won back Berlin, which was carried by Trump, but then lost to Phil Murphy in 2017.
For the Democrats, looking to flip the two Assembly seats after Addiego switched parties from Republican to Democrat earlier this year, the party to victory lies in Hillary Clinton and Phil Murphy’s victories in 2016 and 2017.
The Democrats need to win the combined vote share in Hammonton, Pemberton Township, Medford, and Evesham, by a margin around 2% or higher, while also winning the remaining vote share by a similar margin. They can afford to win one of the two by a smaller margin of around 1-1.5% if they can win the other by a 4-5% margin, as both tend to be around 50% of the vote each, with only minor fluctuations between 2016 and 2018.