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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Where New Jersey’s legislative races stand with nearly all votes counted

By Joey Fox, November 11 2021 2:35 pm

Today marks nine days since last Tuesday’s tumultuous election, in which Jack Ciattarelli came uncomfortably close to upsetting Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats faced unexpected legislative losses. 

Not every vote has been counted, nor has every result been determined – the 11th district in particular still remains up in the air – but by now most races in the state have a clear verdict. Below are the results, updated daily by Decision Desk HQ, on where things stand in every remotely competitive legislative district.

Highly competitive districts

In the 2nd district, home to the second-highest spending of any district in the state, State Sen. Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor) defeated Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) 51.9-48.1%, or 2,203 votes – a small upset, given that the lone poll of the race showed Mazzeo up seven points. 

Polistina’s Assembly running mates, Claire Swift and Don Guardian, got 26.9% and 26.8% of the vote, beating Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena Vista) and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick, who got 23.6% and 22.7%.

Right next door, the 3rd district wasn’t expected to be on the list of the state’s most competitive districts, but Republicans Edward Durr, Beth Sawyer, and Bethanne McCarthy-Patrick upset Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (D-Woolwich) anyways.

Sweeney, who conceded at last yesterday, lost to Durr by 2,202 votes, 51.7-48.3%. Burzichelli and Taliaferro performed similarly, receiving 24.0% and 23.6% to Sawyer and McCarthy-Patrick’s 26.2% and 26.1%.

The 8th district was seen as the state’s premier race, and it lived up to its name, delivering narrow majorities for all three Republicans who ran. Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) won with a 1,771-vote margin, or 51.2-48.8%, over party-switching State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham); Stanfield’s running mates, Michael Torrissi (26.5%) and Brandon Umba (25.5%) also pulled out victories over Democrats Allison Eckel (24.1%) and Mark Natale (23.9%). 

In the 11th district, Republican Lori Annetta led on election night and nearly upset State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), but fell short by 2,622 votes, 51.8-48.2%. Annetta’s running mates, however, fared better; Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner lead with 25.1% and 24.9% over Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune), who have 24.7% and 24.5%, respectively.

Finally, Democrats won all three seats in the 16th district, but sweated more than they might have liked. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) trailed on election night but has since built up a solid 53-47%, 4,667-vote lead over former Rep. Michael Pappas (R-Branchburg).

His running mates, Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) and Sadaf Jaffer, also prevailed, though Jaffer was behind for several days after Election Day. Freiman got 26.5% and Jaffer 25.6%, while Republican nominees Vinny Panico and Joe Lukac got 24.2% and 23.7%.

Republican districts

While the main focus of the election season was on the 2nd, 8th, 11th, and 16th districts, Democrats also ran active campaigns in a number of Republican districts, but all of those campaigns came well short of flipping seats.

Democrats held the 1st district only a couple of short years ago; those two years may as well have been two political centuries. State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) annihilated Democrat Yolanda Garcia Balicki 64.6-35.4% – 18,731 votes – and both Assembly Republicans managed to garner more than 30% of the vote.

In the 13th district, Democrat Vincent Solomeno ran an intriguing campaign against State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), but lost by a punishing 61.5-38.5% margin, or 19,618 votes; his Assembly running mates lost in landslides as well.

The 21st district continued its streak of electing Republican legislators despite trending Democratic; Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) held Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield)’s Senate seat by 6,039 votes, 53.7-46.3%, while Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz (R-Summit) and newcomer Michele Matsikoudis won with 27.0% and 26.3% of the vote.

Though the 25th district hosted a pair of expensive and competitive special elections in 2020, Democrats didn’t come close to breaking through this year. State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) resoundingly defeated Jeff Grayzel 57.5-42.5%, or 11,385 votes, with Republican Assemblymembers Aura Dunn (R-Mendham) and Brian Bergen (R-Denville) not far behind.

And Murphy no doubt wanted a Democratic win in the 39th district to ease the nomination of Rachel Wainer Apter to the Supreme Court, but it was not to be. State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) dispatched Democrat Ruth Dugan by 11,980 votes, 57.4-42.1%, and both Assembly Republicans were re-elected with more than 28% of the vote each.

Democratic districts

On election night, there were a number of thought-to-be-uncompetitive Democratic-held districts that appeared unusually close, including one or two where Republicans in fact led. In the days since, however, Democratic incumbents have pulled ahead by healthy margins, albeit closer ones than were anticipated.

Democratic woes in South Jersey gave the party a scare in the 4th district, but State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Washington) has risen to a 54.4-45.6%, 5,967-vote victory over Republican Stephen Pakradooni; slightly closer is the race for the Assembly, where Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Gloucester City) only defeated Republican Patricia Kline 25.8-23.6%.

In the 14th district, State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) just barely managed a double-digit victory, defeating Republican Adam Elias 55.1-44.9%, or 7,215 votes; both Assembly Democrats similarly managed to pull out relatively healthy victory margins.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) also achieved a double-digit victory in the 36th district, winning against Chris Auriemma by 5,745 votes, 56.6-43.4%, though with many votes still left to count.

Finally, no district appeared more daunting for Democrats on election night than the 38th, a district assumed to be safely in their corner – but one where Republicans led for most of the night. State Sen. Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus) now has a 52.8-47.2%, 3,533-vote lead, and Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-Bergenfield) leads Al Mastrofilipo by 2,413 votes for the second seat in the Assembly.

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