Interactive Map: A Quiet Primary, Characterized by Incumbent Wins

Christie and Buono easily bested token opposition, setting them up for their November showdown

Counties are colored by the party that has the voter registration advantage. The dots in each district represent which party controls it, with purple signifying split representation.

An especially quiet New Jersey primary ended last night with no surprises and very low turnout with both major gubernatorial candidates and all incumbents easily winning nomination to run in November.

Neither Gov. Chris Christie nor Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) had any difficulty besting token opposition — Republican Seth Grossman and Democrat Troy Webster — to set up their Election Day face-off. As of 11 p.m., with 94 percent of the votes counted, Buono had taken 88 percent of the Democratic votes, while Christie had won 92 percent of Republican ballot.

Buono took the stage first, telling her supporters in Edison that she is running for average New Jerseyans who work hard but have trouble making ends meet with continued high unemployment and high property taxes. She said the state has one problem: Christie.

“The road will be long and it will be challenging, but we are not here do what is easy,” Buono told supporters. “The era of choosing showmanship over substance will come to an end. The era of mistaking name calling for consensus building will come to end. My first priority will be making sure, regardless where they live or who they love, everyone gets a fair shake in New Jersey. We have to work for it. Are you ready to work? I’m ready to work if you are.”

As supporters cheered, Buono called up family and friends as the Alicia Keys song “This Girl is on Fire” played.

About an hour later, Christie addressed his backers in Bridgewater, and painted himself very much the same way that Buono had — as a person born in Newark of meager means who has become a success. He boasted that he has turned the state around.

“Remember, everybody, what we inherited,” Christie said. “We needed to make government smaller, we needed to lower taxes . . . we needed to empower the private sector to grow again in New Jersey. They said it was impossible. I said here’s how we’re going to do it: Spend less. So now, four years later, we’re still spending less in state government than [former Gov.] Jon Corzine and his group were spending six years ago.”

Turnout was low, though many more Republicans went to the polls than Democrats. Of those counties with contested state legislative races, a greater percentage of Republicans voted in all but Hudson and Union counties. In Bergen, Monmouth, and Somerset, fewer than 10 percent of Democrats voted.

The highest Republican turnout was in Atlantic, with nearly 27 percent. The highest Democratic showing was in Union, which had two contested Senate primaries, where almost 24 percent of Democrats went to the polls.

Nominations for ballot spots for the entire Legislature were actually contested in a third of the state’s 40 districts, although few beyond the party faithful paid much attention. The exceptions were in the 13th along the Shore, the 20th in Union County, and the 34th in Essex. All were considered competitive but the incumbents wound up winning each easily,

In the 13th, Tea Party candidate Leigh-Ann Bellew challenged Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth). The race was considered somewhat competitive because the Tea Party is well-organized in Monmouth but the incumbent wound up winning in a blowout, with nearly 80 percent of the vote.

“The voters of our district had a choice — and their decision is clear,” Kyrillos, who has been in the Legislature for 25 years, said last night. “Our fellow Republicans have spoken, and they want a team who will work with Gov. Christie to cut spending, shrink government, and fight to strengthen our economy. I’m proud of the campaign we ran, and our hard work paid off. The voters rejected dirty tricks and smears and supported taxpayer reforms that put people first.”

Kyrillos had greater name recognition, but was considered slightly vulnerable due to his big loss last November to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. But he had a vast money advantage – $243,000 to about $9,400 raised by Bellew.

In the 20th, 30-year Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) appeared to face a serious challenge from Donna Obe, president of the Roselle Board of Education and an assistant vice-president at Citibank in New York City, but won easily with 66 percent of ballots cast. The campaign was probably the nastiest in the state, with a group with ties to the Elizabeth Board of Education, Lesniak’s home town, putting out several negative mailers attacking him. Lesniak complained that the group’s spending was not captured by the state’s election finance watchdog because it was done by an outside group. Officially, according to documents filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Obe spent $6,100 to Lesniak’s $715,000.

And in the 34th District, Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) initially was outspent by her main challenger, Mark Alexander, a former state director of President Barack Obama’s campaign. Eventually, she surpassed Alexander and won the backing of the powerful Essex County machine, and it’s hard to win in the county without the county line. A third candidate, Vernon Pullins Jr., spent virtually nothing.

Alexander had allied with East Orange Mayor Robert Bowser, who also lost, having not gotten the Essex County Democratic party’s backing. Instead, the Essex Democrats’ candidate, Lester Taylor, won. According to data from News 12 New Jersey, with 90 percent of votes counted at 11:30 p.m., Gill had 65 percent, to 27 percent for Alexander and 8 percent for Pullins.

The 34th also had the state’s largest contingent running for the Assembly — seven candidates. But Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and her well-known running mate Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (both D-Essex) had no problem winning their nominations.

Likewise, Kyrillos’s running mates, Assembly members Amy Handlin and Declan O’Scanlon (both R-Monmouth) bested their opponents, Edna Walsh and Stephen Boracchia, who ran with Bellew.

Other incumbents who turned back challenges:

  • In the 22nd District covering parts of Middlesex, Somerset, and Union, Democratic Sen. Nicholas Scutari;
  • In the 30th in parts of Monmouth and Ocean, Sen. Robert Singer, a Republican;
  • In the 32nd District in Hudson County, Sen. Nicholas Sacco and Assembly members ;
  • In the 36th that includes portions of Bergen and Passaic counties, Assembly members Marlene Caride and Gary Schaer;
  • In the 38th in parts of Bergen and Passaic, Assembly members Connie Wagner-Terranova and Timothy Eustace.
  • Another large primary was in the 33rd District in Hudson County, where neither incumbent Assemblyman is seeking reelection. Six Democrats vied for the party’s nomination for two slots, with those backed by the county party organization — Carmelo Garcia and Raj Mukherji — winning easily.

    View the complete data set used to assemble the interactive map.