A hugely influential member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood is exploring a run for State Assembly in the 30th district as a Democrat against Republican incumbents Sean Kean (R-Wall) and Ned Thomson (R-Wall).
Avi Schnall, the director of the New Jersey office of Agudath Israel of America and a staunch advocate for non-public school students, is preparing to take a leave of absence from his post in advance of the March 27 filing deadline to see if he can flip an Ocean/Monmouth legislative district that has been solidly Republican since its origin in 1991.
The 38-year-old Orthodox activist is a registered Republican who backed Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021 and would switch parties to make the run.
Ocean County Democratic Chairman Wyatt Earp confirmed that Schnall is mulling a challenge to Kean and Thomson. So have Democrats in the Monmouth portion of the district.
“We welcome his interest and enthusiasm,” Earp said. “It’s a great opportunity for all the towns in the 30th to have representation within the majority party in Trenton.”
But Earp made it clear that Schnell would need to participate in the process by seeking the organization line at a mini-convention.
There are 26,5551 more Republicans than Democrats in the 30th district – a 39%-19% edge, with 41% of the voters unaffiliated with either party – but the ability of the Orthodox community in Lakewood, Howell and Wall to split their ticket creates an interesting opportunity for Democrats.
Two years ago, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli carried the towns in the newly-drawn 30th district by a 64%-35% margin, while Republican legislative candidates won by 42 percentage points.
Democrats are not expected to make a serious play for the Senate seat, where veteran Republican State Sen. Bob Singer, a former Lakewood mayor, has substantial support in his hometown.
The district also includes the Monmouth County municipalities of Avon, Belmar, Farmingdale, Howell, Lake Como, and Wall.
In another part of Ocean and Monmouth, 87-year-old State Sen. Sam Thompson (D-Old Bridge) announced this week that he was switching parties and would run for re-election as a Democrat.