New Jersey is serving as an incubator for Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, with two statewide candidates being New Jersey natives and longtime residents.
Gubernatorial candidate Douglas Mastriano was a registered voter in New Jersey for 28 years until July 2021 when election officials changed his status to inactive.
Records show that Mastriano voted from his family’s Hightstown home from 1982, when he turned 18, through the 2010 general election. He remained on the voter rolls until a sample ballot was returned roughly six months after the death of his mother last year.
Dr. Mehmet Oz lived and voted in New Jersey until 2021, when he moved to Pennsylvania to seek a U.S. Senate seat. He remains on New Jersey’s voter rolls as a resident of Cliffside Park and could legally vote in his home state this November if he chose to not vote in Pennsylvania.
Lt. Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, has sought to make Oz’s New Jersey residency a campaign issue.
“It’s like Déjà vu all over again. This will start the Jersey stuff right back up,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “I’m not sure whether it’s a bigger headache for Mastriano or Oz. Maybe Governor Kean would cut an ad for them to tell Pennsylvanians that New Jersey and you are perfect together.”
Mastriano voted in successive Republican primaries in New Jersey from 1982 through 1985 and never voted again in a GOP primary, although he tried in 2010 and his ballot was rejected.
He voted in general elections in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2010. He also voted in school board elections in 2001 and 2002.
During much of that time – from 1986 until his retirement in 2017, Mastriano served in the U.S. Army, including a deployment during Operation Desert Storm. Many of his votes were through absentee ballot.
Mastriano’s mother, Janice, a registered Democrat, served three terms on the East Windsor Regional Board of Education. In 2000, she faced calls for her resignation — and nearly a recall campaign — after she compared homosexuality to pedophilia.
”I wouldn’t want a known homosexual camping with my boys, because you know most of them are pedophiles too,” she said in an interview with the Trenton Times.
Later, she issued a statement apologizing “for not understanding that there are lifestyles other than my heterosexual normal one that are possibly as legitimate as my lifestyle.”
“'(I apologize) for repeating a stereotype that possibly promotes fear of homosexuals, for myself and many of my fellow citizens who have the same unknowing innocence as I do concerning people with sexual preferences other than heterosexual,” she said.
She was crushed when she sought re-election in 2002, finishing last in a field of five candidates for two seats and receiving less than 90 votes.
As a Pennsylvania congressional candidate in 2018, Mastriano opposed same-sex marriage. After his election to the State Senate in a 2019 special election, he opposed a plan to ban conversion therapy.
Mastriano’s maternal grandmother, Joan Bono, was elected to the North Brunswick school board in 1951 and re-elected twice before losing her seat in 1963. She came back in 1968 and served two more years.
The Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, also has ties to New Jersey. He was a senior policy advisor to U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli from 1998 to 1999.
Shapiro is in New Jersey today to attend a Democratic Governors Association policy conference in Jersey City hosted by Gov. Phil Murphy. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is hosting a $5,000-per-person fundraiser for Shapiro.
Oz had been a relatively consistent voter in New Jersey’s general elections, voting in all but five of the state’s 21 general elections since 2000. He skipped voting in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2009, and 2017. Out of the 22 Republican primaries the state has held since the turn of the millennium, however, Oz only voted in three: the 2008 presidential primary, 2009, and 2016.
Mastriano and Oz never voted in both states in the same year.
It appears that Mastriano never notified Mercer County that he had left the state permanently and the U.S. Postal Service continued to deliver sample ballots to his family home in Hightstown.
After his mother died in January 2021, Mastriano’s sample ballot for last year’s primary election was returned to election officials with a handwritten note: “Return to sender. Moved to PA.”