The Republican State Committee is launching early attacks against Democratic assemblymen in the 16th district in an apparent bid to soften Democrats’ hold on one of only two districts in the state where voters elected representatives from two different parties.
“The same week that Governor Murphy fully funded his union cronies’ pension program, and cut a sweetheart deal with public employees to guarantee jobs amidst unprecedented turmoil, Assemblymen Zwicker and Freiman voted to jack up taxes for the elderly and middle- and low-income families in New Jersey,” Steinhardt said.
Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) hold the district’s Assembly seats, while State Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Branchburg) represents the district in the legislature’s upper chamber.
Both assemblymen have declined to rule out a challenge to Bateman in 2021, though it’s not clear what the district will look like after lines are redrawn next year.
For one, there’s no guarantee South Brunswick will remain in the district, meaning there’s no guarantee Zwicker will be able to run for re-election seeking his own seat.
The district has grown increasingly Democratic since Zwicker first won a seat for his party in 2015. Then, he ousted incumbent Donna Simon (R-Readington) by 78 votes.
That win was spurred in part by the 2011 reapportionment, which saw the 16th lose staunchly-Republican Bridgewater in exchange for Princeton and South Brunswick, two Democratic strongholds.
That chasm has widened in recent years. In 2017, Zwicker was re-elected to a second term in the lower house in a landslide that helped Freiman beat back Simon’s comeback bid by 3,040 votes to capture the district’s second Assembly seat.
Bateman defeated Democrat Laurie Poppe by just 574 votes to win re-election then, but Democrats’ focus that year was squarely on the Assembly seats.
Last year, Zwicker and Freiman got 27,732 and 26,466 votes, respectively, easilt defeating former Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire and former Montgomery Mayor Christine Madrid’s roughly 22,000 votes.
Now, Republicans attempting to ding the assemblymen in an effort to drive their approvals down before they seek re-election next year.
“New Jersey Republicans have been saying that the Democrats in Trenton are focused on private sector pain and public sector gain, and you couldn’t make that point any more clearly than Zwicker and Freiman have this week,” Steinhardt said. “As we move towards the 2021 election, NJGOP will make sure that voters in LD16 know that in the midst of a global pandemic and recession, Zwicker and Freiman voted to jack up taxes on the elderly and middle class. We’re confident their constituents will punish them for that at the polls next fall.”
Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who used to represent the district but gave up his seat to run for governor in 2017, could top the ticket next year if he clinches the Republican gubernatorial nod.
It’s also possible that Steinhardt, who may run for Gov. Phil Murphy’s seat himself, would prefer the district’s Republican legislative candidates not get that advantage.