Morning Digest: How the glory days have passed the Jersey GOP by

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Pres-by-LD: It’s time to spin some of those old Springsteen records: Daily Kos Elections is out with the 2020 presidential results for all of New Jersey’s legislative districts, where this year’s state elections will be conducted using the current map. You can find all of our district-level data nationwide at this bookmarkable permalink.

The Garden State is divided into 40 legislative districts, with each electing one senator and two members of the Assembly; the districts are exactly the same (or “perfectly coterminous”) for both chambers. Each party can nominate up to two candidates for the Assembly, and the top-two general election vote-getters win, which is the same system used in Arizona. Members of the lower chamber are elected to two-year terms, while the Senate is up in years ending in 1, 3, and 7. (This system, known as “2-4-4,” is used in eight states.)

The existing map was drawn up and first used in 2011, but it will be kept around a bit longer than planned. Last year, voters passed a constitutional amendment backed by legislative Democrats that required the state to use the current legislative boundaries for the 2021 elections if New Jersey did not receive census data required for redistricting by Feb. 15, which is exactly what ended up happening. (The Virginia House of Delegates, where we’ve previously released 2020 election data, will also hold this year’s elections using its 2011 map.)

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Now, to the numbers. Joe Biden won New Jersey by a wide 57-41 margin, which allowed him to carry 29 legislative districts compared to 11 for Donald Trump. Team Blue similarly enjoys a 52-28 edge in the Assembly and a 25-15 majority in the Senate, though as we’ll discuss, Republicans hold considerably more crossover seats heading into this year’s elections.

It’s hard to believe now, but the GOP went into the 21st century with majorities in each chamber which, along with their control of the governor’s mansion, gave them the legislative trifecta. It wasn’t much longer before things began to sour for Republicans, however: Democrats flipped the Assembly as well as the governorship in 2001, while both parties worked out a power sharing agreement after they tied in the Senate. Team Blue took outright control of the upper chamber just two years later and has never looked back, despite GOP victories in both the 2009 and 2013 gubernatorial elections.

We’ll start with the Assembly, where each district currently sends either two Democratic members or two Republicans to Trenton. (The last time any constituency split its vote and elected one Democrat and one Republican was 2015.) Altogether, eight Republicans represent Biden turf, while two Democrats hail from Trump districts.

The bluest GOP-held seat is LD-21, a constituency that’s home to portions of Morris, Somerset, and Union counties in the New York City area. Mitt Romney prevailed 52-47 here in 2012, but this is one of the many suburban seats across the nation that dramatically swung to the left at the top of the ticket during the Trump era: Hillary Clinton carried the district 53-43 in 2016, while Biden took it 58-40 last year. That transformation, though, hasn’t quite taken hold down the ballot. Minority Leader Jon Bramnick took first with 26% of the vote in his last race in 2019, while Minority Whip Nancy Muñoz beat out her Democratic foe 25-24 for the second seat.

The only Democratic-held Trump seats, meanwhile, are both in LD-03, a South Jersey constituency that has moved in the opposite direction. Barack Obama won by a solid 55-44 margin in 2012 only for Trump to prevail 50-46 four years later, and Trump took it again in 2020, albeit by a smaller 50-48 margin. But as in LD-21, Democrats have held out down the ballot: Assemblyman John Burzichelli won 28% in 2019 as fellow incumbent Adam Taliaferro beat his nearest GOP rival 27-23.

We’ll turn to the Senate, where five Republicans hail from Biden seats while LD-03 is again the one Democratic-held Trump seat. That Democrat is Steve Sweeney, the powerful longtime Senate president who has spent much of his career infuriating many in his party. In 2017, the last time Sweeney was on the ballot, the New Jersey Education Association even took the unusual step of backing his Republican opponent, but that didn’t stop the incumbent from winning a very expensive campaign 59-41.

The bluest GOP-held Senate seat, conversely, is LD-16, a four-county seat that, depending on whom you ask, is entirely located in Central Jersey or North Jersey. (Central Jersey’s very existence remains a controversial topic in some circles, with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy once dubbing it “a little bit of a mystical kingdom–;kind of like Camelot.” Murphy, though, later unequivocally tweeted, “As Governor of the Great State of New Jersey, I hereby declare that CENTRAL JERSEY DOES EXIST.”)

This constituency supported Obama 53-45 in 2012, and it’s only gotten more Democratic since then: Clinton won 55-41 here, while Biden took it in a 60-38 landslide last year. Longtime Republican state Sen. Christopher Bateman held on 50.5-49.5 in 2017, but his retirement gives Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker a good opportunity to flip the seat for Team Blue. Zwicker’s GOP foe is former one-term Rep. Michael Pappas, who earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, “Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr / Now we see how brave you are.”

The GOP is also defending another open seat, the nearby and aforementioned LD-21. This constituency is held by Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who lost a tight 2020 race in the 7th Congressional District to Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski. Kean, however, decided against seeking re-election in order to focus on a rematch with Malinowski. The GOP is fielding Bramnick, while Democrats are running Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello.

A total of three legislative districts also are represented by a senator from one party and a pair of assemblymembers from the other. LD-02, a 55-44 Biden constituency, in South Jersey’s Atlantic County, elected Republican state Sen. Chris Brown as well as Democratic Assemblymembers Vincent Mazzeo and John Armato. ​​Brown, though, resigned this summer to take a post in Murphy’s administration, and Republicans appointed former Assemblyman Vince Polistina to replace him. This fall, Polistina will go up against Mazzeo, who is seeking a promotion. LD-16, where Bateman is retiring, is similarly situated.

The only district with a Democratic senator and two GOP assemblymembers is LD-08, where state Sen. Dawn Addiego switched parties to join the Democrats a little more than a year after winning re-election as a Republican. Addiego faces GOP Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield this fall for this coastal South Jersey seat that supported Biden 53-46.

There’s one other unusual aspect of New Jersey politics we’ll discuss. It used to be fairly common for legislators to simultaneously hold local municipal office, a practice known locally as “double dipping.” The legislature passed a 2007 law ending this going forward, but it allowed any affected incumbents to keep both posts as long as voters continued to re-elect them to each. Four Democratic legislators, all of whom are running again this year, remain in both posts, including state Sen. Brian Stack, who is also the mayor of Union City and an important powerplayer in Hudson County.

Oh, as for Asbury Park? It’s located in LD-11, which voted 55-43 for Biden. The Boss is well-known as a vocal champion of the Democratic Party, so if a seat opens up one day, maybe he was indeed born to run …;

P.S. Since publishing our presidential results for New Jersey’s congressional districts earlier this year, we’ve received information from Essex County that has allowed us to release more precise calculations for the 8th, 10th, and 11th Districts. The 10th shifted from 82.8-16.4 Biden to 84.2-15.0 Biden, while the 8th similarly moved from 73.1-25.9 Biden to 71.8-27.2 Biden. The 11th, which is the most competitive of this trio, had the smallest change, going from 52.9-45.8 Biden to 52.7-46.0 Biden.


GA-Sen: Donald Trump’s Save America PAC has released a new survey from Fabrizio Lee to argue that former NFL player Herschel Walker remains the heavy favorite to claim the GOP nomination should he decide to challenge Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. The poll finds Walker demolishing state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black 54-5, and it shows him doing even better once respondents are asked how they’d vote if told Trump endorsed Walker.

IN-Sen: Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott announced this week that he would go up against Republican Sen. Todd Young, who is unlikely to be a serious Democratic target next year.

McDermott, a self-described moderate, spent years as a rising Democratic star, and he finally sought a promotion last cycle when he ran to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in the reliably blue 1st Congressional District in the northwest corner of the state. The presumed frontrunner, though, ended up losing the primary to North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, who had the backing of Visclosky and the United Steelworkers of America, in a 33-28 upset.

OH-Sen: State House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes said this week that she would not seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat.

PA-Sen: VoteVets has endorsed Rep. Conor Lamb, who served as a Marine prosecutor, in next year’s Democratic primary.


CA-Gov: Politico reported Thursday on allegations that Alexandra Datig, the former fiancé of conservative radio host Larry Elder, broke off the couple’s engagement after Elder “;waved a gun at her while high on marijuana”; in 2015. Polls have shown Elder as the leading Republican in the Sept. 14 recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Carla Marinucci writes that Datig says that Elder “;would often become threatening or insistent with her”; before this incident. Datig alleges that after one acrimonious talk, Elder “;walked over to the nightstand, opened the door, took out the gun.”; She continued, “;And he checked if it was loaded–;while I was talking. He wanted to make sure I saw that he had it,” adding that she ended up locking herself in a bedroom.

Datig says that she signed a non-disclosure agreement after ending their relationship, which she says Elder”;s assistant told her “;all Larry”;s girlfriends did.”; She acknowledges she’s broke the NDA by speaking out now because there”;s “;too much at stake”; in the recall election, in which she”;s backing another Republican, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, over Elder.

Elder has also received renewed scrutiny for old misogynist comments he’s made. Among other things, he wrote in his 2002 book, “;Are there legitimate business reasons for a venture capitalist to ask a female entrepreneur whether and when she intends to have children? Hell, yes.”; On Wednesday, one day before Datig”;s allegations were publicized, Elder said he stood by that statement; that comment came as he was being endorsed by Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents a conservative district in the northeast part of the state.

GA-Gov: Donald Trump’s Save America PAC made an unsubtle attempt to recruit David Perdue by releasing a Fabrizio Lee poll arguing that, with Trump’s support, the former senator would be the favorite to beat Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP primary.

Perdue has shown no obvious interest in taking on Kemp, who infuriated Trump last year when he refused to go along with his plan to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state, and senior Republicans tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they’re skeptical he’ll run. Perdue himself introduced Kemp at June’s party convention, and the paper says he privately told the governor earlier this year that he’d be supporting his re-election.

Still, that’s not stopping Trump’s team from releasing these numbers to Politico. The poll initially shows Kemp beating his only notable opponent, former state Rep. Vernon Jones, 41-19, with Perdue in third with 16%; in a one-on-one matchup, Kemp enjoys a smaller 46-40 edge over Kemp. When respondents are told “that President Donald Trump endorsed and fully supported David Perdue for Governor,” though, it’s Perdue who bests Kemp 41-26, with Jones at 13%.

The PAC’s decision to publicize these numbers also indicates that Trumpworld isn’t keen on supporting Jones. While Jones has been a fanatical Trump supporter, his not-so-recent past as a Democrat may make him too toxic even for the GOP leader.

MI-Gov, MI-AG: While former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider didn’t rule out seeking the GOP nod for governor or attorney general earlier this year, he said Wednesday that he wouldn’t run for anything in 2022.

NJ-Gov: The RGA has launched what the New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein describes as an opening “six-figure TV ad buy” going after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy for vacationing in Italy this week as the pandemic remains serious. Wildstein notes that the group and its counterparts at the DGA each spent over $2 million here in 2017 in a contest that never looked very competitive.

NY-Gov: On Wednesday, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams became the first notable Democrat to publicly express interest in waging a primary campaign against Kathy Hochul, who will ascend to the governorship when Andrew Cuomo’s resignation takes effect at midnight ET Tuesday. Williams said, “I’m considering the governor position, but there is a whole lot to consider, and what I’ve said is that it’s probably best to consider it after the transition has occurred.”

Williams also ruled out a second run for lieutenant governor, the post that Hochul beat him for in 2018 by a 53-47 margin. Williams, who was a city councilman at the time, used that surprisingly close finish as a springboard to win his current post in a very crowded 2019 special.


NY-12: Soon-to-be-Gov. Kathy Hochul has thrown her support behind longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who once again faces Democratic primary opposition in her safely blue seat based in the East Side of Manhattan and nearby parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

The two served together after Hochul won her own term in Congress after her upset 2011 special election win in a conservative upstate seat. The Commercial Observer recently wrote that the victorious Hochul stayed at Maloney’s D.C. townhouse until she could find her own capitol area residence, and the two became close during this time.

Maloney’s main intra-party opponent so far is nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid, and she could be in for another expensive race. The incumbent outraised Abdelhamid $505,000 to $410,000 during the second quarter of 2021, though Maloney ended June with a larger $660,000 to $255,000 cash-on-hand lead.


Birmingham, AL Mayor: Mayor Randall Woodfin picked up an endorsement from President Joe Biden on Thursday ahead of the Aug. 24 nonpartisan primary.

Woodfin has enjoyed a huge financial edge in a field that includes former Mayor William Bell, whom he unseated in 2017; Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales; and businessman Chris Woods, who also unsuccessfully ran for this post last time. If no one takes a majority of the vote, a runoff would take place Oct. 5.

Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Michelle Wu has launched her first commercial ahead of the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary, which features several restaurant workers praising her as an effective leader who “takes on tough battles others just avoid.” The candidate then pledges to “make housing and transportation more affordable for everyone, and we will finally tackle the high cost of living.” The campaign is also airing a spot that features Wu delivering her message in Spanish.

Other Races

Erie County, PA Executive: Democrat Tyler Titus has released a survey from GQR that gives them a 46-43 edge over Republican Brenton Davis in the November race to lead this competitive northwest Pennsylvania community. Titus would be the first trans county executive in America, and GQR also found respondents agreeing by a 77-18 margin that “[a] transgender elected official or government leader can be as effective as a non-transgender elected official or government leader.”

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