Overview: Incumbents Take All Races Across NJ, Clinton Clinches Nomination
Garden State voters were very good to incumbents, setting them up for spots on November ballot -- and giving Hillary Clinton just what she needed
New Jersey primary voters carried the incumbents, as well as Hillary Clinton, toward reelection; there were no upsets throughout the state.
As for the congressional races, the night belonged to the incumbents, who typically outspent and decisively overwhelmed challengers. There was a slight surprise in the 3rd District Democratic contest, where Frederick LaVergne cruised past his rival to take a spot on the November ballot.
Amid a final flurry of primaries, Clinton eased to victory in New Jersey over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, clinching the nomination beyond question. A former secretary of state, U.S. Senator from nearby New York, and wife of a former president, Clinton had the backing of most of the state's Democratic establishment.
With 98 percent of voting districts reporting, Clinton had roughly 553,000 votes, 63 percent of the total. At roughly 320,000 votes and 37 percent, Sanders led only in Sussex and Warren counties.
At a rally in Little Falls, state Democratic Chairman John Currie told supporters that by any measure, Clinton has captured a commanding lead in delegates to the party's national convention in Philadelphia next month. As the first woman to be the party's putative presidential nominee, her victory is "an incredible and historic accomplishment -- unprecedented for a major political party," Currie said.
In the scattering of contested congressional primaries, challengers had liitle to show for their efforts.
The most establishment of establishment Democrats, 1st District incumbent Donald Norcross beat newcomer Alex Law, a Sanders supporter. Norcross is the brother of George Norcross, the Democratic power broker of South Jersey.
Outspoken conservative incumbent Scott Garrett, whose rhetoric has made some supporters blanch among New Jersey’s moderate Republican base, cruised to victory over two challengers in the 5th District. Both of them, however, challenged him from the right.
Leonard Lance in the 7th District and Rodney Frelinghuysen in the 11th also both won rematches over more conservative challengers.
Clinton's strength in New Jersey "is significant not just as the votes that carry her over the top to the nomination," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
"It shows her strong viability when she wins in a diverse state like New Jersey that is a microcosm of the United States," he said.
The Clinton campaign poured resources into New Jersey, with frequent appearances by the candidate and her two major surrogates, her husband and her well-known daughter Chelsea. According to an analysis by CircaVictor, a political technology company that tracks election spending, Clinton accounted for half the $66 million spent by all candidates in the state. Groups backing her expended $24.8 million to $7.9 million for Sanders supporters.
The Democratic nominee will face pugnacious Republican businessman Donald Trump, who routed mainstream GOP candidates to lock up sufficient delegates two weeks ago.
Though GOP stalwarts like former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have scorned Trump's divisive rhetoric, primary voters had no such qualms as he rolled to victories in New Jersey and other states last night.
A rundown of the victors in the contested districts is more or less a list of familiar names.
Donald Norcross, 57, is a former president of both the building trades council and the AFL-CIO central labor council for South Jersey. A former state Senator, he replaced Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) in 2014 , after he announced his resignation in the midst of a congressional probe into his use of campaign funds. By the time the Federal Elections Commission dismissed the allegations three months later, Norcross already had picked up endorsements from key Democrats around the state to run for the seat.
The party establishment held firm for Norcross this year. Even Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the Sanders campaign in New Jersey, endorsed him over Sanders supporter Law.
During a lengthy career in the Legislature, Lance built a reputation as a thoughtful and bipartisan lawmaker, so much so that Republicans bounced him from a leadership post. In Washington, the former moderate has turned into a reliable soldier for the national GOP's agenda, without being enthusiastic enough to satisfy some conservative activists. He has faced a contest from the more conservative Larsen four of the past four elections.
But no one would describe his fourth match against Larsen as polite. The third candidate in the race, Heard, previously known as a Republican fundraiser, tried to make his views known over a difficult and divisive match between the other two campaigns.
Larsen filed a defamation suit against Lance and his campaign manager, citing "published statements that falsely declare Larsen to be a ‘notorious tax cheat’ and a ‘serial tax dodger’” because of frequent late payments of property taxes.
In the 5th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Scott Garrett overwhelmed two underfunded opponents, businessmen Michael Cino of Demarest and Peter Vallorsi of Newton. Garrett's resolutely conservative stances, from opposing abortion to accepting oil drilling off the New Jersey coast, continued to play well with Republican primary voters in the northwest corner of the state.
But Garrett's outspoken opposition to gay marriage has been a deal-breaker for some previous corporate supporters. In November, he faces a Democratic challenger who has amassed a sizeable war chest, Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and Microsoft executive.
A fixture on the New Jersey political scene, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) won nomination for a 12th term in the House, which would exceed his father's tenure. For the second consecutive primary, he beat paving contractor Rick Van Glahn, a Trump supporter who ran as a "true conservative."
Frelinghuysen will face Democrat Joseph Wenzel, a lawyer and Clinton supporter who ran with the backing of three county party organizations. Wenzel beat Sanders supporters Rich McFarlane and Lee Anne Brogowksi.
Third District Democrats provided a minor surprise, as Frederick LaVergne , who ran twice previously as an independent, eased past Jim Keady, an advocate for Hurricane Sandy victims. LaVergne will face first-term Republican Tom MacArthur.
The district has more Democratic voters in Burlington County, where LeVergne got the party line and swamped Keady, Dworkin said.
"A lot of people probably had no idea who he is, but it shows the power of the party line," he said.
Several other primaries on the Democratic side proved to be no contest. In the 12th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman, a staunch liberal, routed "Liberty Tea" candidate Alex Kuscma, a former Franklin Township mayor who opposes abortion, gay marriage, and gun control. Watson Coleman will face Republican Steven Uccio, who was unopposed.
In the 8th District, Democratic incumbent Albio Sires overwhelmed Eloy Delgado in a primary that is tantamount to election. In the 2nd District, David Cole swamped Tino Rozzo for the chance to face incumbent Republican Frank LoBiondo.