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NJ Senate chamber. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Seven candidates file to run for governor in June primary election

18 primary fights in races for the legislature

By Nikita Biryukov, April 05 2021 10:39 pm

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The dust has mostly settled on New Jersey’s filing deadline, with four Republicans and three Democrats competing to run for governor.

Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who became the front runner in January after former GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt dropped out of the race, finds himself in a four-way primary for the chance to take on Gov. Phil Murphy.

Three candidates – Brian D. Levine, a former Somerset County freeholder and Franklin mayor, Hudson County pastor Phil Rizzo and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh — each filed petition to run for the nomination ahead of Tuesday’s 4 PM deadline.

Murphy has some primary opponents too: perennial candidates Roger Bacon and Lisa McCormick are running for the Democratic nod.

Bacon has run for office six times, including a failed primary challenge to Gov. Jon Corzine twelve years ago, and McCormick, who has already lost four campaign.

There’s no shortage of primary fights for the State Senate and Assembly, which will collectively host 18 intra-party battles.

The premier battle is in the 37th district, where two Assembly incumbents are facing off to succeed Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who is not seeking re-election.

Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) has the support of the Bergen County Democratic organization and endorsements from Murphy and Weinberg.  His longtime running mate, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), is running with the backing of some grassroots progressive groups and the Communications Workers of America.

Tenafly Council President Lauren Dayton and Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice are running off-the-line with Vainieri Huttle, while Tenafly Democratic Municipal Chair Shama Haider and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park are on a slate with Murphy and Johnson.

Republicans are running Michael Koontz, who once presented himself as a conservative alternative to Steve Lonegan, for Senate.  Edward Durfee, Jr., who headed the Bergen County chapter of the controversial Oath Keepers group, is running for Assembly with the

The 26th district is host to a four-way race for State Assembly in the GOP primary.

In an unexpected move, four-term Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo filed an Assembly candidate.

After losing the Morris County GOP convention, Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany-Troy Hills) is running off the line in her home county, but she has organizational support in the Passaic and Essex portions of the district. Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), meanwhile, is on the line in Morris and off-the-line elsewhere.

The two incumbents are bracketed with one another. They’ll face former Pompton Lakes Councilman Christian Barranco, who has the line in Morris and Passaic.

In the 31st district, Assembly Majority Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) is running off-the-line after losing the support of Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, who invoked a long-standing tradition that allows Democratic mayors in Hudson County to select a member of their legislative delegation.

Davis picked William B. Sampson, a Longshoremen’s union official, to replace the incumbent. Sampson will run bracketed with Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City).

In the second legislative district, former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) faces a challenge for the party nod from former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman, who ran for the House in 2018. Unlike then, Grossman doesn’t have the backing of the Atlantic County Republican Committee, which finds itself at Polistina’s back.

The winner of that race will go on to face Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) in the general election. Incumbent State Sen. Chris Brown (R-Ventnor City) is not seeking re-election.

Former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and former deputy state attorney general Claire Swift will run for Assembly with Polistina. They’ll meet Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena Vista) and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick in November.

In the 16th district, former Rep. Mike Pappas faces a primary challenge from Jeffrey Grant, who last year launched a write-in campaign for Montgomery Township Committee. Pappas has organizational support. The race’s winner will face Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) in the general election.

State Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Branchburg) is not seeking re-election.

Zwicker’s running mates, Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) and former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, will face Princeton University lecturer Faris Zwirahn in the primary.

State Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield) faces a challenge from Edison School Board member Mohin Patel, who is also running a slate of Assembly candidates.

Lisa Salem and Maurice Alfaro Sr. are challenging Assemblymen Robert Karabinchak (D-Edison) and Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick). The incumbents have organizational support.

The 20th legislative district will see a three-way race between incumbent State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle) and Jason Krychiw, a science teacher.

With six candidates, the Democratic field for the district’s Assembly seats is the widest in the state.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) and Roselle Democratic Municipal Chair Rev. Reginald Atkins are on the party line with Cryan, while Christian Veliz and Diane Murray-Clements will join Holley on the “I am you Union County Democrats” slate.

Krychiw will run alongside Aissa Heath and Ricky Castaneda.

In the 24th district, State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) is challenged by Andover Regional School Board member Dan Cruz, who is running off-the-line.

State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) faces a primary challenge from Quadir Selby in the 28th district.

In the 39th district, the death of 86-year-old State Sen. Gerald Cardinale on February 20 has triggered some movement.

Cardinale’s replacement, State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), is unopposed in the GOP primary.

Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Old Tappan), who came within 8 votes of capturing the Senate seat in a special election convention last month, is seeking a fifth term in the Assembly.  In Bergen County, he’s running with Assemblywoman-elect DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River).  DeFuccio won Shepisi’s seat and is due to be sworn in to the Assembly on May 5.

Auth and DeFuccio face Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti and former Saddle River GOP Municipal Chairman Jon Kupris in the Republican primary.  Azzariti lost to DeFuccio by 7 votes.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) and her running mate for an open seat, New Providence Councilman Michelle Matsikoudis, face a Republican primary challenge from Jennifer Makar.

Further complicating matters, Auth and Azzariti are running mates in the Passaic County portion of the district.

In the third district, Assemblymen Adam Taliaferro (D-Woolwich) and John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) face a challenge from Arman Noori.  Senate President Steve Sweeney faces no primary challenge.

On Ocean County, Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick) face primary challenges Geraldine Ambrosio, the former president of the Toms River Republican Club, and Brian Quinn in the 10th district, while Assemblymen Robert Clifton (R-Matawan) and Ron Dancer (R-Plumsted) face a challenge from Ahmed Basuoni, who is running under the slogan “For Love of America.”

In the 30th district, former congressional candidate Alter Eliezer Richter, who held Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) to 95% of the vote in the 2020 Republican primary.

The Lakewood rabbi who has led public protests against Pride Month celebrations, is challenging Assemblymen Sean Kean (R-Lakewood) and Edward Thomson (R-Wall).  But Richter’s petitions, containing just 119 signatures, are vulnerable to a challenge that could knock him off the ballot.

That vulnerability is shared by a handful of other candidates, though none of those are primarying an incumbent.

Former Haddon Township Commissioner John Foley, a Republican seeking the sixth district’s Senate seat, filed with just 112 signatures.  Attorney David Wright, a candidate for Senate in the ninth district, has 132 signatures.

That’s one fewer than attorney William Michelson, who is seeking the Republican nod for Senate in the 22nd district against Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden).  His Assembly running mates, David Sypher and Hans Herberg, filed with 135.

Republican Juan Barbadillo filed his petitions for the 32nd district’s Senate seat with just 124 signatures. He’s seeking to challenge eight-term State Sen. Nicholas Sacco, the powerful mayor of North Bergen.

On the Assembly side, Democratic candidates Garitt “Tony” Kono and Mary “Sharon” Quilter filed their petitions in the 10th district with just 112 signatures.

Republican Patricia Johnson is running for Assembly in the 15th with 125 signatures.

A total of at least 76 Senate candidates and 148 Assembly candidates filed petitions on Monday.  That number will likely increase as more petitions are processed by the state Division of Elections.

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