Three Republicans are competing for the chance to take on Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) when one of the state’s top Democrats seeks re-election in November.
The Middlesex County Republican screening committee voted Wednesday night to recommend Rocco Genova and Christian Onuoha to run in the 19th district to run against Coughlin and freshman Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy).
Genova received 19 votes and Onuoha got 15. Jesus Varela finished third with five votes.
Genova ran unsuccessfully for the Woodbridge Township Council in 2015.
Varela, a small business owner from Perth Amboy, was a late replacement candidate for the Assembly in 2015. Coughlin beat him by 9,964 votes.
This is Coughlin’s first re-election campaign since becoming speaker. He was elected in 2009 by 4,671 votes against former Woodbridge school board member Richard Piatkowski. He has won re-election easily four times in the heavily Democratic 19th district.
Republicans have not won in the 19th since 1993.
Maria Concepcion Powell received the unanimous support of the screening committee to run in the 17th district against incumbents Joseph Egan (D-New Brunswick) and Joseph Danielson (D-Franklin).
Middlesex Republicans will offer the second 17th district seat to Somerset County. They will also look to Union or Somerset county Republicans to pick candidates in the 22nd district, and to the Mercer County GOP for Assembly candidates in the 14th.