By Zach Lanning
The amount of money spent was high, voter turnout was low, and the results of the first election since 1999 during which the Assembly topped the ballot were, at times, quite unexpected. Though the results are still unofficial, it seems Democrats were the big winners in the state picking up three, possibly four, Assembly seats, including both seats in District 11.
The Republican incumbents in District 11, Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande, were narrowly edged out by Democratic challengers Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey. The district encompasses most of Monmouth County and has more registered Democrats (27 percent) than Republicans (20 percent). Increased spending by General Majority PAC, which included buying an ad that aired during the World Series, and strong support from organized labor seems to have contributed to swinging the district from red to blue.
Another surprising result came out of District 1, the southernmost district that covers Cape May County and parts of Atlantic and Cumberland counties. Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak won re-election with 28 percent of the vote, but Republican incumbent Samuel Fiocchi was defeated by Assemblyman Andrzejczak’s running mate, and fellow veteran, Bruce Land. The 1st District saw more than $1 million spent by General Majority PAC in support of the Democratic candidates in an effort to sway some of the heavily Republican voters in Cape May County. When speaking with correspondent Brenda Flanagan, Assemblyman-Elect Land acknowledged his campaign was grateful for the support, but, he said, that when it really comes down to it, “Most people look at the person and not the party.”
There were two other races of possible contention that were being monitored in the 2nd and 38th districts. Neither resulted in any sort of change as incumbents from both parties were able to retain their seats. In District 2, which encompasses Atlantic City, Republicans and Democrats battled over who was more opposed to casino gaming in North Jersey. Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown and Democratic Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo both saw their running mates, Will Pauls and Colin Bell respectively, fall short of unseating their rivals. In District 38 the Democratic incumbents, Assemblymen Tim Eustace and Joseph Lagana, were able to fend off a challenge from Republican Mark DiPisa, as well as Republican Anthony Cappola who garnered 20 percent of the vote. Cappola did this despite being disowned by DiPisa and the rest of the Republican Party when a controversial book that he wrote in his 20s resurfaced.
One race previously not on the radar before Tuesday’s vote, but has now become the closest race in the state, is the contest in District 16, where it appears Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon has lost her seat to Democratic challenger Andrew Zwicker by a total of 29 votes; 16,176 to 16,147. If this result holds after provisional and mail-in ballots are counted it will give the Democrats four new seats in the Assembly for a total of 52, still two seats shy of a veto proof majority.