Assemblyman Ryan Peters and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield have won the eighth district’s Assembly seats, beating out Democratic challengers Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale.
Stanfield ran in first with 10,036 votes, followed by Peters with 9,919. LaPlaca is at 9,172 and Natale at 8,890.
The contest in the eighth district began with strife on the Republican side.
In January, State Sen. Dawn Addiego defected from the Democratic party, and while Peters announced hours later that he had no intention of doing the same, Assemblyman Joe Howarth maintained radio silence for two days.
Though he has and continues to deny it, multiple sources on both sides of the aisle told the New Jersey Globe Howarth attempted to join Addiego in the Democratic party.
Burlington Republicans shared that belief and pulled support for Howarth, handing his half of the county line to former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield.
Scoring Stanfield was a recruiting coup for Republicans, and the two county-backed candidates easily defeated Howarth’s off-the-line bid as a MAGA Republican to win the party nod.
There was no such strife on the Democratic side. LaPlaca and Natale won their spots on the general election ballot without competition.
Like other races in the state, the eighth district contest saw much of its focus lent to guns and outside money.
The Republicans attacked their challengers over General Majority PAC’s involvement in the race, repeatedly calling on the Democrats to condemn the George Norcross-linked super PAC over a mailer it sent in the 1st district that Republicans claimed darkened the face of Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan.
Democrats stood by the group, or rather they ignored Republicans’ attacks over the PAC.
Their side focused on guns, echoing attacks leveled by a General Majority mailer that hit Peters and Stanfield for their stances on gun control.
The National Rifle Association gave Stanfield a 93% rating and gave Peters a 73% rating.
For Democrats, the race was an extension of the contest that saw Rep. Andy Kim elected to Congress last year.
Burlington County, which accounts for the vast majority of the eighth district, has become increasingly purple over the past years.
The huge margin Kim racked up there propelled him over Rep. Tom MacArthur, who managed to secure a smaller but still sizable margin in Ocean County.
Democrats in the eighth district outnumber Republicans, 51,735 to 44,817.
In 2017, when Peters and Howarth won re-election by 350 and 520 votes, respectively, Democrats held a narrower registration lead of 48,771 to 42,474.
The race saw its share of late surprises.
In mid-October, the New Jersey Globe reported LaPlaca crossed the picket line in 2016, when 36,000 Verizon workers, including close to 5,000 in New Jersey, went on strike for 44 days.
LaPlaca, then a lobbyist for Verizon, served as a substitute worker. She said her employer forced her to scab, but the New Jersey branch of the Communications Workers of America refused to endorse her over the incident, and the state AFL-CIO pulled its endorsement over the same, though other labor groups remained active in the race.