In the old days of Bergen County, the towns north of Route 4 were considered reliably Republican.
That’s no longer the case.
Amidst a suburban political realignment in recent years, Democrats are trying to target numerous suburban GOP legislative districts, including the 39th, one of the northernmost districts in the state. In 2017, Republican Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), and Robert Auth (R-Old Tappan), won re-election to the State Assembly by a margin of 7.2% over Democrats Jannie Chung and Annie Hausmann.
Schepisi and Auth ran ahead of Kim Guadagno, the Republican Gubernatorial Candidate by 4.24%.
The ’17 race was funded by then-Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who was trying to pick up two more seats to help him hold on to his leadership post against challenger Craig Coughlin.
In 2019. Schepisi and Auth are being challenged by a pair of Democratic local elected officials” Westwood Mayor John Birkner, Jr. and Emerson Council President Gerald Falotico.
Emboldened by the 2018 Democratic wave in NJ which flipped four of the five remaining Republican-held congressional seats Blue – and Rep. Josh Gottheimer ousting a seven-term Republican congressman in 2016 in a district that includes all twenty 39th district municipalities — underdogs Birkner and Falotico hope to be able to be able to keep the momentum going a year later and flip the 39th district.
In the election, Donald Trump carried the 39th district by a margin of 4.6%, defeating Hillary Clinton by 5,156 votes. Clinton lost the district by less than Bob Menendez did but did not win all the municipalities that he managed to win, losing Woodcliff Lake. Part of the reason why she lost was a weak performance in the more populous municipalities in the district, winning only Dumont out of the five most populous municipalities. Clinton had the weakest performance of the three Democrats in Ringwood, one of the districts more populous municipalities.
In the election, Kim Guadagno carried the 39th district by a margin of 2.96%, defeating Phil Murphy by 1,977 votes. Phil Murphy lost the district by the smallest margin out of the three most recent statewide Democrats. He carried two municipalities that both Clinton, and Menendez failed to carry, winning Hillsdale by 4.3%, and winning Ringwood by 2.98%. Murphy under performed the Democratic ticket in the district’s largest municipality, Mahwah, which he lost by 18.76%, while Clinton lost it by 9.56%, and Menendez lost it by 12.2%.
In the election, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin carried the 39th district by a margin of 6.46%, defeating Menendez by 6,164 votes. Menendez carried one municipality that Clinton did not carry, winning Woodcliff Lake, winning it by 1% over Hugin, Murphy also carried this district. Menendez under-performed Murphy in this district, on average, doing 3.7% worse than Murphy per municipality, and doing 4.9% worse on average in the 6 most populous municipalities. Menendez still over-performed Clinton, in part due to high Democratic turnout in the district in 2018, due to the competitive congressional race in New Jersey’s 5th district, which the Democrats won by 13.7%.
The path to a Democratic victory in this district would require winning every municipality that any Democrat has won in the past 3 years, as well as flipping municipalities such as Ramsey and River Vale, as well as losing municipalities such as Mahwah by smaller margins then the Democrats have in the past.
While in the future this district might trend more democratic, as it is heavily suburban, and the suburbs are shifting away from the Republican Party on a national level, for 2019, it is going to be a tough district for the Democrats to crack.