- Republican Legislative Gains
- Democratic Gains at the Local Level
- Election Analysis
New Jerseyans went to the polls on November 6th with the entire New Jersey Assembly up for election. When the new legislature convenes in January 2020, Democrats will still retain an overwhelming majority in the Assembly. However, Republicans did realize gains and won as many as four assembly seats, as well a State Senate seat and beat back very aggressive Democratic efforts to claim a few traditional GOP strongholds. Democratic candidates did see meaningful success at the local level in many traditional Republican areas, including winning the Mayor’s race in one of the State’s largest cities, Hamilton.
Republican Legislative Gains
Democratic State Senator Bob Andrzejczak was defeated by Cumberland County GOP Chairman Mike Testa in a special Senate election contest to replace the seat formerly occupied by Congressman Jeff Van Drew. Mr. Testa’s running-mates, Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen and Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan, were also successful in their bid to defeat incumbent Democratic Assemblymen Bruce Land and Matt Milam in this deep Southern New Jersey District that tends to trend more conservative. Mr. Testa was the State Co-Chair of President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and Republicans still outnumber Democratic voters in the district.
In the neighboring 2nd Legislative District, which is anchored by Atlantic City, County Freeholder John Risley and former Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther are neck and neck with incumbent Democratic Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato. According to media reports, the GOP challengers led on the machine ballots, but the Democrats gained a lead as the vote-by-mail ballots are being counted. That race has not been definitively called as of yet.
Democratic Assembly challengers ran close races in traditionally Republican but targeted districts in Burlington, Union and Morris Counties, but the established GOP voter advantage provide too much to overcome. This includes a spirited challenge to Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick in the 21st Legislative District, and his running-mate Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz who serves as the Republican whip.
Democrats Gains at the Local Level
Democrats won a major mayoral contest in Hamilton Township in Mercer County, where Democratic Council President Jeff Martin defeated two-term GOP mayor Kelly Yaede. Hamilton, a municipality with almost 90,000 residents, is often viewed as political bell-weather for the State.
Democrats also took complete control of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders and won the Sheriff’s Office for the first time in years. In Somerset County, a Democrat won the Sheriff’s Office for the first time since 1964 and their Freeholder candidate is leading by approximately 300 votes, but VBM and provisional ballots still need to be counted. A Democratic win would give the party control of the freeholder board for the first time in 50 years.
On voter turnout, there was a significant increase in the use of VBMs in the 2019 election cycle. NJ voters cast nearly 240,000 ballots by mail this year, more than twice the 2015 VBM total and substantially higher than the 183,000 in 2017. While traditional machine voting continues to be the predominate method for voters, the use of VBMs is expected to grow in future election cycles.
Nationally renowned political pollster Patrick Murray of Monmouth University shared his thoughts on this year’s legislative campaigns with the New Jersey Globe political website and its implications for the 2020 election.