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Somerset Dems mull choices in 21st district Assembly race

Schaffer inclined to back Union picks, but reserves option of open primary

By David Wildstein, February 11 2019 9:47 pm

Somerset County Democrats are inclined to support the 21st district Assembly candidates that win the endorsement of the Union County Democratic screening committee unless there is a big pushback from the four Somerset municipalities, county chair Peg Schaffer said tonight.

“I want a good top of the ticket,” said Schaffer.

Democrats won two freeholder seats in 2018 and are focused on winning control of county government for the first time since 1965.

Seven candidates are in the race to challenge Republicans incumbents Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), and two – Stacey Gunderman and Lisa Mandelblatt – appear to have enough votes to secure the organization line in Union when the screening committee votes later this month.

Schaffer told the New Jersey Globe that if the Somerset towns – Bernards, Far Hills, Warren and Watchung – feel strongly that they want a candidate other than Gunderman and Mandelblatt, the party could choose to have an open primary and put all the candidates in the organization column.

In 2017, 75% of the Democratic primary votes in the 21st were cast in Union County.  Somerset had 20% and Morris made up 5%.  Morris has indicated that they will back the Union County choice.

While the four Somerset towns make up a small part of the 21st, they account for 17% of the registered voters countywide.

Goutam Jois seems to have some support in Somerset and the Summit attorney may need to decide if he’s willing to challenge the Union Democratic choice for the second consecutive year.  He ran for Congress in 2018 despite six county organizations endorsing Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) and won just 15% of the vote.

Union leader and first responder Carlos Gomez, perennial candidate Jill LaZare and former state Division on Women director Ileana Montes have also sought the Somerset Democratic endorsement.  Kyla Rodger, a progressive activist, did not sign up to screen in Somerset County.

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