In a district where the Democrats have increased their voter registration edge by over 4,000 votes since 2017, while the Republicans have only increased their voter share by slightly under 1300 votes, Democratic candidates Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman are challenging incumbents Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) for State Assembly in the Union-Somerset-Morris 21st district.
In the 2017 State Assembly race, Bramnick and Munoz won re-election with a combined vote share of 52.1% against Democratic Candidates Lacey Rzeszowski and Bruce Bergen. The Democrats have won in each of the three most recent statewide elections. This race is shaping up to be one of the closest of the cycle, and both parties are going to need to put a substantial amount of work in to win in November.
Hillary Clinton carried the 21st district by a margin of 9.84%, or by 10,759 votes against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Clinton carried this district with the largest margin out of the three most recent statewide Democrats, winning by nearly 7.75% more than Phil Murphy.
Part of the reason that Clinton won by such a large margin compared to other statewide Democrats was her victories in four of the municipalities with the highest vote totals, winning the combined votes of Summit, Cranford, Bernards, and Westfield, by a 17.06% margin.
These municipalities which together account for a total of 52,361 votes, or 47.88% of the district’s overall votes in 2016, helped Clinton pad out some losses in the less populated municipalities in the state, and carry her over the finish line by almost 10%. One town that helped Clinton win by more than Phil Murphy and Bob Menendez was the fact that she carried Bernards, the districts 2nd largest municipality by 0.86%, while Murphy lost it by 12.26%, and Menendez lost it by 10.22%.
In the 2017 gubernatorial election, Murphy carried the 21st district by a margin of 2.1%, or by 2.1% over Republican Kim Guadagno. Murphy’s 2.1% margin of victory was a nearly 8% decrease from Clinton’s margin in the recent presidential election and was in part to under-performing Clinton in the more populated municipalities in the district.
While he still won the combined vote share of Summit, Cranford, Bernards, and Westfield, by a margin of 6.56%, these towns counted for 50.4% of all the districts vote, more than they did in 2016, and he won by nearly less than 1/3rd the margin that Clinton won by.
Murphy carried one municipality that both Trump and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin won, Garwood, which he carried by 3.26%, while Trump won it by 4.82%, and Hugin by 1.96%. This district has consistently been near the bottom in terms of votes cast, being the 2nd lowest in 2016.
Menendez carried the 21st district by a margin of 0.84%, or by 837 votes over Hugin. The combined vote share from Summit, Cranford, Bernards and Westfield counted for 48.6% of all votes cast in this district in 2018, and Bob Hugin was able to keep the margins in these towns closer than Trump or Guadagno, and as a result came within 1% of carrying this district. He came this close by carrying the rest of the district, which counts for 51.41% of votes cast by a nearly 4% margin, which almost offset his losses in the larger municipalities. Hugin was able to win back 2 municipalities that went for Murphy in 2017, Garwood which went for Trump in 2016, and Chatham which went for Clinton.
For a Democrat to win in this district they need to win the combined vote share in Summit, Cranford, Bernards, and Westfield by at least 5.5%, and for a better then razor thin victory margin, try to win by at least 8-10%, or match Clinton’s nearly 17% margin of victory. Driving turnout in these towns to the point where they make up at least 50% of the overall vote would also increase democratic chances of flipping this district, meanwhile, they should try to win the remaining towns, or at least only lose the vote their by 2% or lower in order to minimize the chances of a district wide loss.