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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 on her re-election plans: Talk to me after the filing deadline

Assemblywoman has tough choice to make as anti-Durr slate falls apart

By Joey Fox, March 20 2023 12:16 pm

Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer (R-Woolwich) is in a tough spot. Earlier this year, she defected from the 3rd district slate led by State Sen. Ed Durr (R-Logan) and joined a rival slate headed by Salem County Commissioner Mickey Ostrum (R-Pilesgrove), but Ostrum ended his campaign last week, leaving Sawyer without a full slate and with a difficult path to re-election.

Asked today what her plans are, she declined to comment, saying that she’ll be more forthcoming once next week’s filing deadline passes.

“Call me after the 27th,” she said.

By then, of course, it will be clear what Sawyer intends to do. And she has a lot of different options.

One is to simply continue on her current path against Durr’s Assembly running mates, Assemblywoman Bethanne McCarthy Patrick (R-Mannington) and Hopewell Township Committeeman Tom Tedesco. Sawyer’s Assembly running mate, former Harrison Township Committeeman Adam Wingate, is still in the race for now, and she could recruit a new challenger for Durr before the filing deadline.

Sawyer could also move up to the Senate race and challenge Durr herself. Bad blood between Durr and Sawyer is what initiated the primary contest to begin with, so Sawyer may decide to take on the senator directly.

Both options would present a tough challenge, though, given that Durr and his running mates have party support across the entire 3rd district. Durr won the organizational line in Gloucester and Cumberland Counties and, impressively, got the Republican Party endorsement in Ostrum’s home of Salem County, where Republicans don’t have a county line on their primary ballots.

It’s possible that Sawyer might instead try to make amends and rejoin Durr’s slate, booting Tedesco. That would reunite the original 3rd district team that shockingly unseated former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) in 2021, but given the drama that’s unfolded since then, it’s hard to see everyone making nice.

Or Sawyer could drop her re-election campaign entirely, potentially in preparation for future political maneuvers. She has been discussed as a possible challenger to U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who is up in 2024 and has yet to draw a notable Republican opponent.

Most chaotically, Sawyer could drop her Republican party label and run against Durr as an independent – taking the fight against her rival all the way to the general election.

No one would be happier about that decision than South Jersey Democrats, who are running a slate led by former Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) this year to reclaim their old 3rd district seats. If Sawyer were to run a serious third-party bid, she could draw enough of the vote away from Durr to hand the election to Democrats.

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