While the gubernatorial race has dominated the airwaves, there are a number of legislative races up tomorrow that folks are watching particularly with all 120 legislative seats up. Here’s some info on each:
Legislative District 2 (Atlantic County)
When longtime Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan announced his retirement in January of this year, it set up a true contest between Republican Assemblyman Chris A. Brown and Democrat Colin Bell, a former Atlantic County freeholder. Although Brown has the experience in state government, Bell is the incumbent; he was selected by his party to fill Whelan’s seat after the senator died of a heart attack in August. Bell may also benefit from an unrelated race in Atlantic County that could boost voter turnout in his favor.
In addition to the Senate race, voters in the 2nd District will elect two members to the lower house, at least one of whom will be a newcomer to the Legislature. With Brown running for Senate, his Assembly seat is up for grabs. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo’s the only incumbent in that race and fellow Democrat John Armato, a Buena Vista Township committeeman, are running on a ticket against Republicans Vince Sera, a Brigantine Beach councilman, and Brenda Taube, a former Margate City commissioner.
District 2 has historically been competitive so stay tuned!
Legislative District 11 (Monmouth County)
Incumbent Jennifer Beck is seeking another term in the Senate, but is facing a challenge by former Monmouth County Democratic chairman Vin Gopal.
The once largely Republican district has, in more recent times, shifted politically due in part to changing demographics. The election of Democrats Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey to the Assembly two years ago when they defeated two Republican incumbents was a see change for district 11. Now Houghtaling and Downey are both seeking a second term. Their Republican opponents are Ocean Township Deputy Mayor Robert Acerra and Red Bank Councilman Michael Whelan.
Legislative District 16 (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties)
When Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli did not seek re-election in his bid for governor earlier this year, change was apparent but what that change is, remains to be seen.
Two years ago Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker successful won in this redistricted district by a slim margin (less than 100 votes), in part due to changes in the district’s composition. Democrats are hoping to pick up another seat in this split district. But former Assemblywoman Donna Simon wants her seat back.
Zwicker is running alongside Roy Freiman, a member of the Hillsborough Sustainable Steering Committee, who hopes to secure Ciattarelli’s seat for Democrats. They are being challenged by Simon, who’s hoping to return to the Assembly, and her running mate, Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire.
On the Senate side, incumbent Republican Christopher “Kip” Bateman will face off against Democrat Laurie Poppe, an attorney and social worker.
Legislative District 3 (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties)
And then there is district 3. Senate President Steve Sweeney, the state’s current highest-ranking Democratic official finds himself running an expensive campaign to beat back an attempt by the New Jersey Education Association to boot him from office. Sweeney is running against Fran Grenier, chairman of the Salem County Republican Party but his campaign has been largely financed by the NJEA.
Despite the significant amount of money spent (by some estimates $15.8 million) and the vitriolic campaigning, most Trenton observers believe Sweeney will prevail and that he will win by a larger margin than candidates in other competitive districts.
While all 120 legislative seats are up this year, it is expected that Democrats will likely retain control of both houses of the Legislature. They currently enjoy a 24-16 majority in the Senate and a 52-28 advantage in the Assembly. Polls are open from 6am to 8pm tomorrow.