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Northern Valley board of education member Michele LaTour. (Photo: Michele LaTour via Facebook).

The primaries that weren’t

Several candidates with unclear intentions didn’t file on Monday

By Joey Fox, March 29 2023 2:38 pm

For the next two-and-a-half months leading up to the June 6 primary, there will be plenty of time to focus on the primaries that New Jersey is hosting this year in 13 legislative districts and countless counties and towns across the state.

But first, it’s worth acknowledging at the primaries that aren’t happening – races where it seemed like there may be a contested race until the last moment. As late as this Monday, the deadline for major-party candidates to file with the Division of Elections, there were a few candidates who had yet to concretely announce their intentions.

One such candidate was Michele LaTour, a board of education member in Bergen County who had been challenging State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) in the 39th district Republican primary.

LaTour had waged a scorched-earth campaign against Schepisi, accusing the senator of collaborating with Democrats and betraying Donald Trump. It proved to be a strategy that won her few allies among Republican county committeemembers; she lost the Bergen Republican line 73%-27%.

Ultimately, despite its intensity, LaTour’s campaign came to naught. When 4 p.m. on filing day came, she was nowhere to be found, and Schepisi will win renomination uncontested.

A parallel situation unfolded in Ocean County. Toms River school board member Ashley Lamb had been one of the Ocean GOP screening committee’s choices for an Assembly seat in the 10th district, but she lost the organizational line to incumbent Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River).

After her loss, Lamb said that she was undecided about whether to run off-the-line. Nothing seems to have been reported on her campaign since then – but it’s clearly over now, given that she didn’t file petitions.

And up in the Sussex County-based 24th legislative district, it had looked like there would be a six-way Republican primary for two Assembly seats. But in a little-noticed Facebook post four days before the filing deadline, one of those candidates, Enrico Fioranelli, said that he was dropping out of the race.

There are also a few campaigns that never took off to begin with. In Essex County, for example, there was speculation that Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange) could run for the State Senate, speculation which he refused to dispel. Yet when Essex Democratic line was awarded, McKeon dutifully ran for re-election to the Assembly on State Sen./former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland)’s ticket.

South Jersey Democrats tried to encourage a similar challenge in the 14th district, where Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) was entreated to challenge State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) in the Democratic primary. He, too, chose to run for re-election instead.

In Hudson County, two anti-establishment progressives named Eleana Little and Mamta Singh had filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission to run for the 32nd legislative district. The duo later switched over to county-level races, however, and no other candidates stepped in to take their place against the Hudson Democratic organization.

Finally, there are the many candidates who publicly announced their withdrawals before the filing deadline. They won’t appear on any ballots this year, but in many cases they helped to shape the races they left behind.

Among their numbers are two incumbents who lost party support, Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach) and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. After failing to get the party line, both took a few days to deliberate before announcing that they would heed the wishes of the party and retire.

Also on the list of erstwhile candidates: Salem County Commissioner Mickey Ostrum (R-Pilesgrove) and former Harrison Township Committeeman Adam Wingate in the 3rd legislative district; Mount Holly school board member Will Monk in the 8th district; a bevy of different Republicans in the 9th district; former Brick Councilwoman Ruthanne Scaturro in the 10th district; Rick Carabelli in the 14th district; former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in the 24th district; and several Republicans in the 39th district, including former Bergen County Freeholder Todd Caliguire.

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