State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) leads his Democratic opponent Yolanda Garcia Balicki by a 49-36% margin, according to a rare legislative poll of the 1st legislative district released today by Stockton University.
The poll also found Testa’s running mates, Assemblyman Erik Simonsen (R-Lower) and Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-Ocean City), in a strong position to win re-election. Simonsen led with 25% and McClellan was close behind at 23%; the two Democrats in the race, John Capizola and Julia Hankerson, each got 19%.
Most of the six candidates are relatively unknown, which Hughes Center executive director John Froonjian called “fairly typical results” for state legislative candidates. Only Testa had a name recognition rate above 50%; 45% of respondents said they viewed him favorably and 19% viewed him unfavorably.
Though Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly won the district four years ago, the poll found Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli leading the governor 46-44% in the district – a result consistent with other polling that shows Ciattarelli doing well in South Jersey even as he trails in the state overall.
Finally, respondents to the poll said that they approved of school masking mandates 57-35% and vaccine mandates 51-42%, showing that even in conservative districts, opposition to Murphy’s Covid protocols is not hugely widespread. Respondents also said they trusted Democrats more to handle Covid 44-38%, but they trusted Republicans on taxes 54-34%.
Democrats held the 1st district, once represented by now-Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), until 2019, when Republicans achieved a clean sweep. This cycle, there has been little Democratic interest in retaking the seat, and the Republican incumbents are dominating their Democratic opponents in fundraising.
The Stockton poll was conducted between September 28 and October 10, with a sample of 407 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.8%.