Home>Campaigns>Under new district lines, Joann Downey might still be an assemblywoman

Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold). (Photo: Assembly Majority Office).

Under new district lines, Joann Downey might still be an assemblywoman

11th district sees minor changes that scooch it towards Democrats

By Joey Fox, February 18 2022 11:45 am

When former Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) lost last month, it was by an agonizingly close margin. If she had won over just 348 more voters – many of whom were already voting for State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) – she would have prevailed over now-Assemblywoman Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury) and served another term.

The boundaries of the 11th district from 2011-2021.

Under the new lines likely to be approved today by the Legislative Apportionment Commission, Downey probably would have succeeded. The redrawn 11th district, which matches the district proposed by Democrats last week, would trade Republican-leaning West Long Branch for more competitive Bradley Beach and Fair Haven, cutting Jack Ciattarelli’s gubernatorial margin in the district from three points to two.

The 11th district lines likely to be adopted later today.

That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a net gain of about 700 votes for Democrats, more than twice what Downey needed to win re-election. Even former Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune), who finished another 275 votes behind Downey, might have been able to eke out a victory under the new lines.

Of course, the past is the past, and Eulner and Assemblywoman Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck) are duly elected incumbents; Downey, who was nominated to be a Workers’ Compensation Court judge last month, is unlikely to make another go at elected office anyways. But as Gopal prepares to run for re-election in 2023 after winning by a comparatively impressive four-point margin last year, seemingly miniscule changes could have major implications.

Downey and Houghtaling first arrived in the Assembly via upsets of their own, narrowly defeating Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean Township) and Caroline Casagrande (R-Colts Neck) in 2015. Gopal arrived two years later by unseating State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank), making the trio the only three legislative Democrats representing any part of Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

The district was never going to be fully locked away for Democrats, though, and while Downey and Houghtaling won once again in 2019, the possibility of Democrats losing their one tenuous foothold in Monmouth County was always on the table.

As both parties begin gearing up for 2023, Republicans hope to finish what they started and flip the district’s Senate seat, while Gopal is no doubt eager to form a new Assembly slate and work to win the district back.

The 11th district’s new boundaries mean both possibilities are very much on the table. But the minor tweaks on the new legislative map mean that, at least compared to 2021, Democrats have a slight leg up, which may be all they need.

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