Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) today formally launched his bid for State Senate in the 16th district, where Democrats have their strongest chance to flip a longtime Republican seat in November.
Republican State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) announced last week that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term.
“Now, more than ever, we need to make decisions that are based on evidence, not rhetoric, and create sensible, practical policies to improve the lives of all New Jerseyans,” Zwicker said in an announcement statement.
In 2020, Joe Biden carried the 16th district by 28,165 votes, 61%-38%, over Donald Trump.
Zwicker entered the race with a strong endorsement from Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe and party leaders in his hometown of South Brunswick.
Two other Democratic county chairs – Janice Mironov of Mercer and Arlene Quinones Perez of Hunterdon – offered considerable praise of Zwicker, but stopped short of a formal endorsement until their local convention process is played out.
“Andrew Zwicker is the epitome of what a public servant should be: thoughtful, inclusive, proactive,” said McCabe. “I am proud to endorse him for State Senate and look forward to working hard to ensure that he wins this November’s election. This is why local leaders have reached out to me to support Andrew’s candidacy for Senate.
While McCabe endorsed Zwicker, he said that others would have an opportunity to compete at the Middlesex convention next month.
“I look forward to hearing from Andrew and all other candidates running for the legislature at our county screening in March,” stated McCabe.
In Bateman’s 574-vote win in 2017, 45% of the 16th district votes came out of Somerset, while 26% came from Hunterdon, 16% from Middlesex and 13% from Mercer.
Somerset County Demcoratic Chair Peg Schaffer is not included in the Zwicker announcement statement. Neither is his running mate – and possible opponent for the nomination – Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).
Laurie Poppe, the Hillsborough attorney who nearly unseated Bateman four years ago, has asked to be considered for the nomination.
Schaffer has not yet decided on a Senate candidate. She is viewed as preferring a senator from Somerset. And Senate President Steve Sweeney, who is concerned by the growing census of senators form Middlesex, could be her ally in that.
This week, Schaffer asked party leaders to hold off on endorsing a candidate until after her process has ended.
Freiman has not yet announced which office he’ll run for.
Mironov, the mayor of East Windsor, said that while “Mercer County has a candidate review process and not yet formally taken a position, Andrew certainly is regarded as a highly competent and outspoken advocate for the constituents of the 16th District, and would be a strong candidate.”
“From championing effective pro-environment policies to election reform in New Jersey, he has a solid record of service and proven his ability to address some of the most complex, pressing issues in the legislature with a thoughtful well-balanced approach,” Mironov said.
Quinones Perez said that when Zwicker mounted his campaign to unseat Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Readington) in 2015, “no one saw the potential for success – the party owes him a debt of gratitude.”
Zwicker defeated Simon by 78 votes. In that race, he took Princeton and South Brunswick by 4,142 votes. Simon took Hunterdon by 2,674 and Somerset by 1,390.
“Not only did he win, but for over four years he has worked tirelessly to represent all of LD-16,” said Quinones Perez. “We look forward to working with Andrew as he completes the convention process.”
South Brunswick is the only Middlesex municipality in the 16th and his ability to score the organization line there is all but certain.
Zwicker’s campaign rollout included endorsements from South Brunswick Mayor Charlie Carley and the Democratic municipal chairman, Khalid Anjum.
“In 2015 we began our work laying the groundwork to bring Democratic representation to the 16th legislative district for the first time in history,” said Anjum. “Zwicker broke through the Republican stranglehold on the district in 2015 for the Assembly. Now he is the best choice to be the first Democrat to represent the people of South Brunswick and the 16th in the New Jersey State Senate.”
Zwicker, a physicist who works for the Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University, had been planning to challenge Bateman in a district that has grown increasingly Democratic over the last decade. Redistricting in 2011 replaced Republican towns like Bridgewater and Bernards with the Democratic bastions of South Brunswick and Princeton.
Democrats picked up the second Assembly seat in 2017 when Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough) left to run for governor and Freiman won with Zwicker.
Zwicker indicated that he will compete for the Senate seat on the merits of his six-year record in the legislature.
“During my time in the General Assembly, I have focused on protecting our environment, growing our economy, and guaranteeing every voter’s ability to participate in safe and fair elections,” Zwicker said. “I have been laser-focused on advocating for my constituents and I hope to bring my expertise and experience to the State Senate to continue fighting for the people in my district and throughout our great State.”
McCabe’s endorsement also touts Zwicker’s service at Princeton University and in the Assembly.
“A scientist who has dedicated his career to improving the quality of life for our residents, his contributions to New Jersey have already made a difference for our state in the years he has served in the legislature,” said McCabe. “From leading the way in making New Jersey more affordable for our families and small businesses, to fighting for a cleaner and greener environment, Andrew has epitomized how important it is to have a scientist in the Legislature.”
Carley, Zwicker’s hometown mayor, pointed to the assemblyman’s involvement in his own community.
“Assemblyman Zwicker has not only been a staunch advocate for the people of South Brunswick in Trenton but has been an invaluable member of our community here in South Brunswick,” Carley said. “Our communities, now more than ever, need leaders with experience in the state legislature who are as dedicated to moving sound policy as they are to the people they serve.”