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LD30 Democratic Senate candidate Stephen Dobbins. (Photo: Ocean County Democrats).

Ocean Dems pick legislative candidates in deep-red districts

Former Lakewood mayor Marta Harrison will run for Assembly

By Joey Fox, March 23 2023 10:29 am

Ocean County Democrats have chosen their legislative ticket for 2023, running full slates in four strongly Republican districts.

In the 9th district, covering southern Ocean County, Democrats will run Little Egg Harbor Democratic municipal chairman Gabriel Franco for the Senate and teachers Joseph Atura and Sarah Collins for the Assembly. Collins, who is also a Democratic state committeewoman, previously ran for the Assembly in 2019.

Toms River Democratic municipal chairman Jeff Horn will run for the Senate in the 10th district, joined by retired state worker John LaMacchia and Ocean Democratic vice chair Emma Mammano for the Assembly. Mammano has run for the 10th district twice before, in 2017 and 2021, losing Senate races to State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Toms River) both times.

And in the 30th district, Democrats have recruited a notable former officeholder: former Lakewood Mayor Marta Harrison, who will seek an Assembly seat. She’ll be joined by former police detective Salvatore Frascino on a ticket led by small businessman Stephen Dobbins, who ran for the Assembly in 2021.

Harrison, whose two terms as mayor made her the first and only woman to lead Lakewood, last held a committee seat in the rapidly growing township back in 2003. She remains a Democratic state committeewoman, and was LeRoy Jones’ running mate during his 2019 campaign for Democratic state chair, though she was supplanted by Somerset Democratic chair Peg Schaffer as part of the deal that installed Jones as leader.

There was discussion among Democrats of making a serious play for the 30th district this year by running an Orthodox Jewish-focused ticket that would aim to win over Lakewood, which has a colossal (and conservative) Orthodox population. But the candidate who would have led that effort, Avi Schnall, decided against a campaign.

Ocean Dems also picked Brandon Rose, Raya Arbiol, and Paul Sarti to run for the legislature in the 12th district, aligning with Middlesex Democrats’ choices. It looked for a short period like party-switching State Sen. Sam Thompson (D-Old Bridge) would lead the Democratic ticket in the district, but he bowed out of the race a few weeks after announcing his decision to leave the Republican Party.

All twelve legislative candidates face long odds of victory; each of Ocean County’s legislative districts voted for 2021 Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli by at least 25 points.

Ocean Republicans, meanwhile, will see a fair bit of legislative turnover this year. With two legislators retiring and a third beaten at the county convention, Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato, Stafford Mayor Greg Myhre, and Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra are all likely to win their first terms in the legislature this fall.

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