The 7,116 Democrats in the 1st district who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary have a decision to make in the State Senate race: do they vote for a Republican who is chairing Donald Trump’s New Jersey campaign or a Democrat who on a good day might be convinced to vote for Joe Biden.
The decision of State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak (D-Middle) to say that he might vote for Trump next year has left some progressive leaders wondering if they would be better off sending a message to Democrats by not voting for the incumbent – or even preferring conservative Republican Michael Testa, Jr. for the next two years than a right-of-center Democrat.
Andrzejczak told the New Jersey Globe after his debate on Monday that he would not consider voting for Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. He said he might vote for Trump and declined to answer if he would consider Joe Biden or Cory Booker.
“I don’t know how you can support Trump and say you’re acting in the interests of your constituents,” said Hetty Rosenstein, the state director of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). “His constituents need health care too.”
Now some Democrats are left wondering what to do with Andrzejczak, who faces a potentially close race next week against Testa, the Cumberland County GOP Chairman.
“There are Democrats in Mississippi that are more to the left than this guy,” said Sue Altman, the state director of New Jersey Working Families.
Altman said one of the problems progressive voters face are “imperfect candidates with resources.”
That will cause voters to express their anger in other ways, Altman said.
In recent days, an alternative has emerged.
Jeremiah Schenerman, a 28-year-old for Army Reservist and Sanders supporter, is mounting a write-in campaign for State Senate.
Julia Hankerson and David Todd McCarty are running for Assembly with Schenerman, the Democratic nominee for Cape May freeholder last year.
“A lot of us who would consider ourselves Democrats feel we don’t have a voice because our candidates reflect right-leaning issues, said Angela Bardoe, the Cumberland/Salem Action Together New Jersey chair.
According to Bardoe, the write-in candidates decided to run at some point last week.
Schenerman’s candidacy is symbolic at best.
No write-in candidate has ever won in New Jersey beyond the municipal level. And the New Jersey Constitution requires State Senators to be at least 30-years-old.
If Schenerman did miraculously win, the 1st district Senate seat would be declared vacant, and the Democratic County Committee – the same group that picked Andrzejczak for the job after Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) resigned to take his seat in Congress earlier this year – would decide his replacement.
But Schenerman would wind up as a spoiler if the race between Andrzejczak and Testa is especially close.
Note all Democrats thought Andrzejczak should have had the field cleared for him.
“We should be having these fights in the primary election,” said progressive leader Bertin Lefkovic, an Our Revolution New Jersey board member.
Now it’s fair game for progressives to take a shot at the Democratic Senate nominee, according to Lefkovic.
“Bob Andrzejczak is obviously trying to appeal to Trump voters at the expense of potential Democratic presidential candidates, so the gloves have to come off,” he said.
The 1st district might be conservative leaning – Trump won it by nine percentage points against Hillary Clinton – but Cape May and Cumberland counties still have a significant liberal base.
Sanders received 40% of the vote in the district in the primary, and a group of progressives challenging Van Drew in the 2018 primary won a combined 43% of the vote.
Like the rest of the New Jersey congressional delegation, Van Drew has endorsed Booker for president.
Republican strategist Chris Russell, who works for Testa, said he’s not convinced Andrzejczak would ever vote for Trump.
“He says anything that gets him across the line,” Russell said.” He’s not as independent as he makes himself out to be.”
Still, Russell is glad that a progressive write-in slate has emerged.
“Every vote that they steal is plus one for us, so I’ll take it,” he said.
The Andrzejczak campaign declined comment.