The polls are open in New Jersey, where voters will nominate candidates for U.S. Senate, Congress, and scores of competitive county and local offices in today’s primary election.
In the last mid-term election, 2014, Democrats had a 14% turnout and Republicans were at 16%. Just 8% of all New Jersey voters cast ballots in the primary election.
United States Senate
Two-term Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez has only token opposition in Lisa McCormick, a weekly newspaper publisher and Bernie Sanders supporter who won a surprise 44% in the 2010 Democratic primary for Union County Clerk. McCormick has raised less than $5,000 for her statewide campaign.
In the Republican primary to challenge Menendez, former pharmaceutical company CEO Bob Hugin faces businessman Brian Goldberg. Hugin has the endorsement of all 21 county Republican organizations and has already pumped $7.5 million of his own money into the campaign.
The general election is expected to be nasty and potentially close in the aftermath of Menendez’s federal corruption trial last year. The charges against him were dropped after 85% of the jurors voted to acquit him, but Hugin is has the resources to keep the details of the allegations against the incumbent fresh in the minds of voters.
Menendez has already begun to define Hugin as a greedy big pharma millionaire who “drove the company’s profits sucking the blood of cancer patients.”
U.S. House of Representatives
Democrats are favored to pick up the 2nd district seat, where Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo is retiring after 24 years in Congress. The favorite to win the Democratic primary is State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who has won seven races for the Legislature in a Republican-leaning district. Van Drew has been taking heat for his right-of-center voting record, including a 100% rating from the NRA. He has the backing of all eight county Democratic organizations and will likely benefit from the progressive vote being split among three other candidates: retired teacher Tanzie Youngblood; Will Cunningham, a former aide to U.S. Senator Cory Booker; and farmer/activist Nathan Kleinman.
Republicans struggled to find a top-tier candidate to replace LoBiondo. The early favorite is Hirsh Singh, a young engineer from a wealthy family who won 10% in his bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2017. Singh started out the year challenging Hugin for the Senate nomination and shifted to the House race when top Republican insiders wanted to clear the field.
Singh has not raised the kind of money he told Republicans he would but has still outraised his rivals. Singh has the organization lines in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden and Ocean counties; former Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi has the line in Cape May, while Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties have no endorsed candidates. Seth Grossman, a former Atlantic County freeholder and Atlantic City councilman, and retired FBI agent Robert Turkavage are also seeking the nomination.
Rep. Christopher Smith, who was first elected to Conrgess in 1980, is considered the safest of New Jersey’s five Republican House seats. The mere presence of the 4th district on the list of competitive seats is a testament to the blueness of New Jersey and the forecast of a possible Democratic wave.
A contest for the Democratic nomination pits former U.S. Navy officer and Annapolis graduate Josh Welle against progressive activist Jim Keady, a former Asbury Park councilman. Welle has a fundraising advantage and has been endorsed by the Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean County Democratic organizations.
Two Republicans are engaged in a contentious and nasty fight for the chance to take on freshman 5th district Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer: former Bogota mayor Steven Lonegan and former Cresskill councilman John McCann. Lonegan has been running for office for years and narrowly carried the district in his 2014 U.S. Senate race against Cory Booker. Lonegan and McCann hate each other, and both have staked claims as President Trump’s biggest supporters. It will be hard for the winner to unite the GOP against Gottheimer, aka the “Human Fundraising Machine.”
Rep. Leonard Lance is considered vulnerable in his bid for re-election to a sixth term in what could be his closest race since winning the seat in 2008. He faces token opposition in the GOP primary from conservative Raafat Barsoom and liberal Republican Lindsay Brown.
The Democratic front-runner is Tom Malinowski, who served as Assistant U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration. Malinowski captured organization lines in Union, Somerset, Hunterdon, Morris and Warren counties; he faces attorney Goutam Jois and Lance’s 2016 opponent, Peter Jacob – the survivors of a field of Democrats that once numbered seven.
Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is retiring after 24 years in Congress. Insiders from both parties believe Frelinghuysen backed out of his re-election bid after a grass roots organization that heavily criticized his refusal to meet with constituents picked up steam and caused him to fear an electoral defeat.
The 11t district Republican front-runner is conservative Assemblyman Jay Webber, who represents parts of Morris, Essex and Passaic counties. He faces four challengers: Antony Ghee, a hedge fund manager and U.S. Army Reserve major; self-funding businessman Peter DeNeufville; Patrick Allocco, an ex-concert promoter and former aide to Gov. Tom Kean; and attorney Martin Hewitt. Ghee has the endorsements of the Essex and Passaic Republican organizations; if he wins, he would become the first Black Republican congressman from New Jersey.
The front-runner for the Democratic nomination is Miki Sherrill, an Annapolis graduate and retired Navy helicopter pilot and former assistant U.S. Attorney. Sherrill has raised nearly $3 million, has scored the backing of the Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex Democratic organizations, and captured the early endorsement of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Sherill’s main competitor is Tamara Harris, who has raised nearly $800,000 and has come at Sherrill from the left. Also in the race are: college professor Mark Washburne, former assistant attorney general Mitchell Cobert, and scientist Alison Heslin.
Republicans have held the 11th district seat since 1984.
Democratic incumbents Donald Norcross, Bill Pascrell and Donald Payne face minor opposition.
In the 3rd district, two-term Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur and Democrat Andy Kim, a former Obama White House aide, are unopposed in their respective primaries.