Michael Pappas, a former one-term congressman, will seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in the 16th district, setting up a possible rematch of his 2021 race against State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) next year.
“I see how difficult it is for friends, family members and neighbors to make ends meet,” Pappas said at an event in North Branch. “It never ceases to amaze me how the State government seems oblivious to the plight of the people of New Jersey, whether they are working families, small business owners, professionals or students.”
But Pappas could face a fight for Republican organization support from John Lanza, the chairman of the Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners. Lanza has expressed interest in taking on Zwicker.
In his announcement speech, Pappas pledged to run a campaign based on fighting inflation, challenging unfunded state mandates that result in increased property taxes, increasing school security, and fighting state directives “shift educational instruction in favor of philosophical indoctrination of value systems that parents may not support” in New Jersey public schools.
A political boy wonder who won election as Franklin mayor and Somerset County freeholder while still in his 20s, Pappas won a hotly contested GOP primary for Congress in New Jersey’s 12th district after Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-Delaware) became a U.S. Senate candidate.
Sidelined with COVID in the weeks before last year’s election, Pappas lost to Zwicker by 5,205 votes, 53%-47%.
Redistricting has made the 16th district slightly better for Republicans.
“In the days ahead, I intend to highlight not only my criticisms of existing policies but solutions,” stated Pappas. “And critically important to creating common sense solutions will be to engage in a conversation with the great people of the 16th district.”
Gov. Phil Murphy carried the old 16th by six percentage points against Republican Jack Ciattarelli, who had been the assemblyman from the district from 2012 to 2018. Joe Biden outpaced Donald Trump in the old district by 22 percentage points.
In the newly drawn district, which lost Somerville and Manville and picked up more of Hunterdon County, Murphy led Ciattarelli by five points, and Biden won it by 21 points.
Two Democratic Assembly incumbents are expected to seek re-election: Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough), who is in his third term, and Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery), who won Zwicker’s Assembly seat in 2021.
Republican State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) retired last year after four terms in the Senate and a total of 28 years in the New Jersey legislature.
The 16th legislatve district includes parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties.