NJ Primary/General Election Update on the More Competitive New Jersey Districts

New Jersey’s June 6
th primary resulted in all incumbents in the 120 seats up for election in the New Jersey Legislature to maintain their seats for the general election this November. However, there are 10 open seats on the ballot due to a Legislators’ retirement or they are not running this year. Fourtey seats are up in the Senate and 80 in the Assembly. Currently, Democrats control both houses, outnumbering Republicans 24 to 16 in the Senate and 52 to 28 in the Assembly. The Democrats are far likely to retain their majority in the Legislature than lose it to the Republicans because there are very few competitive districts and most incumbents win in the general election. Below is a district by district list of the more competitive races:

  • District 2 – Atlantic County
    Republicans are hoping to pick up a Senate seat in south Jersey’s 2nd district now that Democratic Senator Jim Whelan is retiring. Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown, who became a local champion for fighting against Christie’s state takeover of Atlantic City, is campaigning against Democrat Colin Bell, a former county freeholder. If the Republicans take the seat, it would increase their count in the Senate. The district is almost evenly split between Republican and Democrat voters, therefore, the race could be close.
  • District 7 – Burlington County
    Republican Senator Diane Allen is retiring this year and that leaves the Senate seat in District 7 open. Assemblyman Troy Singleton will attempt to move up to the Senate and will be challenged by Republican Ron Prisco. Senator Allen was well known in the district having been a news ancor for a major Philadelphia network, however, with the district leaning Democrat, Assemblyman Singleton is the favored winner, which would be a one seat increase for the Senate Democrats.
  • District 11 – Monmouth County
    Another district which is evenly split between Republican and Democrat voters is District 11, where incumbent Senator Jennifer Beck is facing a tough challenge from Vin Gopal, the former chairman of the county’s Democratic Party. Last election, Senator Beck’s running mates lost their seats to two Democrats (Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling). The two Assemblypersons are also facing a challenge from Republicans Rob Acerra and Mike Whelan. The races in District 11 are anticipated to be very costly without a clear prediction of who will prevail.
  • District 16 – Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties
    Republicans lost a seat in the last election to Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker in central Jersey’s split 16th district. Now, former Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon is running to win her seat back.  But Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican who holds the district’s other seat, is not on the ballot, giving Democrats hope to take full control of the district. Simon is running with Mark Caliguire, Zwicker with Roy Freiman. Assemblyman Ciattarelli is banned, under New Jersey law, from running for two offices in one year, therefore, his gubernatorial bid precludes him running to keep his seat in the Assembly.
  • District 3 – Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties
    Senate President Stephen Sweeney is facing a challenge from Fran Grenier, the Salem County Republican Party chair who has the backing of the powerful New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).  The NJEA has been angry with Sweeney over the last few years, especially for not posting union supported bills, and is trying to remove him from office, however, Sweeney is still favored to win.
  • Other Districts
    The remaining retiring Legislators are from districts where their respective parties have strongholds and candidates running from the same party as the incumbent will likely win. The veteran legislators not running this year are: Senators Joseph Kyrillos (R-13), Raymond Lesniak (D-20), and Kevin O’Toole (R-40), and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19). Senator Lesniak and Assemblyman Wisniewski are also precluded from running in this election because of their gubernatorial primary bids.

2017 NJ Primary Winners Positions on Healthcare

Democrat Phil Murphy will face Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadango in the November 2017 general election. Here’s an overview of where the two candidates stand on major health care issues based on previous surveys by POLITICO New Jersey.

Legalizing marijuana: Murphy has said he will make legalizing recreational marijuana a priority. Guadagno opposes the idea; she supports decriminalization but not legalization.

Out-of-network reform: The question of how to protect consumers from surprise medical bills has dogged the state Legislature for almost a decade and generated a fantastic display of lobbying power. Murphy said he will close the “out-of-network loophole.” His campaign declined to weigh in on the current bill (A1952). Guadagno has not taken a public position on the issue.

Obamacare/Medicaid expansion: One of the biggest challenges facing New Jersey’s next governor will likely be funding for the state’s $15 billion Medicaid program. Murphy is an ardent Obamacare supporter and says the state must defend against federal funding cuts to the Medicaid expansion population. Guadagno opposes Obamacare, but she would like to see Congress preserve coverage at current levels in whatever replacement plan they craft.

Single-payer: Murphy has said he would consider a single-payer health care system, but he has not provided any details. Guadagno opposes such a system.

Horizon: Both Murphy and Guadagno have said they oppose Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to take money from the capital reserves of the state’s largest insurer Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Gubernatorial Candidates Offer Vague Plans to Deal with Potential Medicaid Cuts

New Jersey’s gubernatorial candidates were asked how they would deal with potential federal cuts to Medicaid, below is Mr. Murphy’s response, the likely Democratic nominee, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno’s and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s (R-16) responses. See below:

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Republican: “As an employer who provided health insurance, I know that the ACA is not working. Year over year, health insurance premiums skyrocketed, which restricts salary increases very significantly, and consumer choice  dwindled. While it’s prudent to withhold judgment until after the U.S. Senate completes their work on this legislation, as Governor I will take advantage of increased state flexibility to implement innovative reforms aimed at delivering convenient access to high-quality care in a more efficient and cost effective way.

“As Governor, I will work in partnership with the Trump Administration, both parties in the State Legislature, and all healthcare stakeholders here in New Jersey, to introduce new and innovative Medicaid systems that provide convenient access to high-quality care in a more efficient and cost effective manner. Examples of such are Zufall Health Center and Zaraphath Health Clinic in Somerset County. My style of leadership will not be to complain and point fingers, but rather to take action that solves problems.”

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Republican (via spokesperson Ricky Diaz): “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals since the bill is now being debated in the Senate, but the Lt. Governor has long opposed Obamacare and believes it’s unraveling. She would urge Congress to make sure that any federal plan to repeal and replace it maintains coverage for those who now have health care, protects New Jerseyans with pre-existing conditions, provides choice, improves care and reduces costs.”

Phil Murphy, Democrat (via campaign spokesman Derek Roseman): “Phil has been clear that the first order of business must be to defend the ACA and protect the health care of the millions of New Jerseyans it benefits. If the Republicans succeed, it would create a several-billion-dollar hole in our already-constrained budget. Phil is studying all options — including a public option — in order to protect health care as a right, not a privilege, for all New Jerseyans. But make no mistake, repeal of the ACA would be a humanitarian and fiscal disaster for our state. Phil’s first priority is to defend the law, and he has consistently called on Governor Christie to end his silence and stand up for New Jersey.”

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Democrat (via campaign spokesperson Greg Minchak): “As governor, John intends to continue successfully lobbying New Jersey’s congressional delegation to prevent this from happening. Regardless of this initial strategy having continued success, John will protect New Jerseyans by recognizing that health care is a fundamental human right and providing a single-payer health care system that will be funded through consolidation of state and federal funding and premium dollars to make sure no one in this state goes without quality health care.

“With respect to potential stripping of funding, John understands that we have a moral obligation to stands behind our citizens no matter what the Trump administration does. John will not allow any citizen to be denied healthcare because of a decision made in Washington D.C.”

Responses from Politico.

Guadagno Wins Republican Gubernatorial Primary

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has won the Republican gubernatorial primary, defeating Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and three other candidates.  The Associated Press called the race for Guadagno at about 9:15 p.m. on primary election day, a little more than an hour after the polls closed.   Guadagno, who served as Christie’s second in command for nearly 8 years, and is New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor, will face Democrat Phil Murphy in the general election. Murphy easily won his party’s nomination on Tuesday. With 39 percent of the vote counted, Guadagno was leading Ciattarelli 49 percent to 27 percent.

The lieutenant governor’s central campaign proposal has been to conduct an audit of Trenton to identify wasteful spending. She promised not to raise taxes and would institute a property tax relief plan, which she calls the “circuit breaker,” that would cap school tax bills to 5 percent of household income.  Guadagno has walked a fine line throughout the campaign as she continues to serve in the Christie administration, while simultaneously trying to separate herself from her boss, whose voter approval ratings have been hovering at an all-time low lately.

Among the other candidates in the GOP primary, Hirsh Singh had 10 percent of the vote, followed by Steven Rogers at 6 percent and Joseph Rullo at 7 percent. As reported by Politico. NJACP has reached out to the Guadagno campaign to invite her to NJACP to speak with members.