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Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer at Gov. Phil Murphy's fiscal year 2023 budget address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Sawyer likely to challenge Durr in GOP Senate primary

Freshman assemblywoman preparing to file on Monday

By David Wildstein, March 25 2023 5:33 pm

Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer (R-Woolwich) is expected to seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in the 3rd district against incumbent Ed Durr (R-Logan) in the June primary election, three sources familiar with her plans have told the New Jersey Globe.

That gives Durr, a trucker driver who unexpectedly ousted Senate President Steve Sweeney two years ago, a potentially strong primary challenger as he seeks a second term in the Senate.

Sawyer had initially planned to seek a second term in the Assembly on a ticket with Mickey Ostrum, a Salem County commissioner who was challenging Durr.  But Ostrum dropped out of the race earlier this month after Durr won GOP conventions in Cumberland and Salem and secured the organization line in Gloucester.

Instead, sources say, she will run for Senate on a slate with one Assembly candidate, Joseph Collins, Jr., the nephew of former Assembly Speaker Jack Collins (R-Elmer).

Sawyer, a conservative, is part of a group of South Jersey Republicans that have grown disenchanted with Durr over a series of controversial statements and what one former backer described as “a bad fit for the Senate.”

While Sweeney’s upset defeat made most of the headlines, Republicans also flipped two Assembly seats in 2021: Sawyer and Bethanne McCarthy Patrick (R-Mannington) unseated incumbents John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) and Adam Taliaferro (D-Woolwich).    In that race, Sawyer ran 298 votes ahead of Durr.

Sources confirmed that Sawyer is expected to support McCarthy Patrick for a second term.  McCarthy Patrick and Hopewell Township Committeeman Tom Tedesco are running with Durr on the three organization lines.

After Ostrum’s exit from the race,  she never considered a return to the Durr slate, the New Jersey Globe was told.

It’s unclear whether the slate will run a candidate for county commissioner, perhaps in coordination with an off-the-line GOP slate in the next-door fourth district.

Sawyer declined to comment.

The filing deadline is Monday.

The winner of the Republican primary is expected to face Burizichelli, who emerged as the Democratic organization choice for the Senate seat.  Progressive Mario DeSantis is challenging Burzichelli in the Democratic primary.

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