For the most part, the Democratic commissioners on the Legislative Apportionment Commission elected to draw a map of least change in their initial proposal released today, shifting towns here and there to balance populations and appease incumbents.
But in Burlington County, Democrats took a hatchet to the existing map.
The party’s proposal for the 7th and 8th districts takes the current north-south split, in which the 7th district is a deep-blue district along the Delaware River and the 8th district covers the more competitive inland towns, and switches it to an east-west split that makes both districts strongly Democratic.
Currently, the 7th district voted for President Joe Biden by 31 points and the 8th voted for Biden by seven; the Democratic proposal would make the 7th district Biden +20 and the 8th district Biden +24.
That would likely be lights out for the 8th district’s three newly elected Republican legislators, who are scattered across three different districts anyways. Assemblyman Michael Torrissi (R-Hammonton) would live in the 9th district, Assemblyman Brandon Umba (R-Medford) in the 7th district, and State Sen. Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) in the 8th district, where she would be double-bunked with State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran).
Stanfield in particular is an impressive candidate, defeating party-switching State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) last year to win the 8th district back for her party, but even she would be a heavy underdog under the Democratic proposal.
One of Singleton’s two counterparts in the Assembly, Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Delran), could join him in the 8th district, while Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel) would be left in the wide-open 7th district, where she would likely be the frontrunner for a Senate seat.
The dramatic changes are a clear indication that Democrats are serious about winning the 8th district back this decade; their proposal left several other competitive South Jersey seats largely unchanged, making the totally revamped 8th district that much more noticeable.
The Republican proposal, of course, doesn’t look anything like the Democratic map. Instead, it shifts the 8th district slightly south, making it redder at Biden +4 and safer for its three incumbents.
Since the proposals are just that – proposals – neither of the maps released today are likely to be exactly what the state’s map looks like come 2023. What the Democratic proposal indicates, however, is that Democrats hoping to recoup their losses in South Jersey see the 8th district as their best opportunity to do so.