NJ Primary: Dozens file challenges in party legislative races

It’s an unusually large number of contested races for Senate, Assembly due to retirements
Credit: Edwin J. Torres/ Governor's Office
File photo

The unusually large number of legislative retirements this year has brought an outsize number of contested primary races in both parties for seats in New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly.

Monday was the deadline for filing for Democrats and Republicans seeking to represent their party in the November elections from municipal council up to governor. At least 21 races in legislative districts throughout the state will have contests due to the large number of candidates who filed. There are also contested gubernatorial primaries in both parties, although they are not likely to affect the frontrunners, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, and Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican.

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, with state election officials still processing paperwork filed by candidates, Senate or Assembly primaries are being contested in 16 legislative districts. In five of those districts, both Senate and Assembly elections are contested. Nine contests are within the Democratic Party and seven are among Republicans. In all, 45 Democrats and 41 Republicans were listed for Senate, and 90 Democrats and 82 Republicans for Assembly. This year’s primary is June 8.

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Major districts and races with contests

  • The 20th District that includes Elizabeth and other Union County municipalities has the largest field of any in the state, with crowded Democratic primaries for both the Senate and Assembly. Three full slates of candidates are running. Democratic incumbents Sen. Joseph Cryan and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, running with Assembly hopeful Reginald Atkins, have received the Union County party endorsement. Jamel Holley, the other incumbent Assembly member, is challenging Cryan and running with Christian Velez of Elizabeth and Diane Murray-Clements of Hillside. The third slate, running as Progressive Democrats of New Jersey, is composed of Jason Krychiw of Union Township for Senate and Aissa Heath and Ricky Castaneda, both of Elizabeth, for Assembly.
  • Two full slates of Democrats are vying in Bergen County’s 37th District, where Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s retirement has set off an intraparty battle. Heading one ticket is Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, who received the Bergen County Democratic Committee’s endorsement for Senate, with running mates Shama Haider of Tenafly and Ellen Park of Englewood Cliffs seeking the Assembly seats. Topping the other slate is Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who is running under the slogan Real Bergen Democrats with Assembly hopefuls Gervonn Romney-Rice of Teaneck and Lauren Dayton of Tenafly.
  • A couple of Republicans are seeking their party’s nod to try to replace GOP Sen. Chris Brown in Atlantic County’s 2nd District. Vincent Polistina, who represented the district in the Assembly nine years ago, is up against Seth Grossman, who fared better than expected in his 2018 loss to Jeff Van Drew for the 2nd Congressional District seat.
  • Three Republicans are seeking the nod for two Assembly seats in the 26th District, which spans parts of Morris, Essex and Passaic counties. The filings indicate incumbents Jay Webber and BettyLou DeCroce are bracketed together, but since they were not both endorsed by the same county GOP organization, it is unclear how their names will appear on the ballot. The third candidate, who got the endorsement in Morris County, the largest portion of the district, is Christian Barranco of Oak Ridge.
  • In the 31st District in Hudson County, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalotti lost the Democratic Party line but filed for reelection. Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and William Sampson of Jersey City are the party-endorsed candidates.
  • In the 3rd District, which includes parts of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties, Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro face Democratic challenger Arman Michael Noori of Bridgeton.
  • A full slate of Republicans is challenging the incumbents in Ocean County’s 10th District. Assemblymen John Catalano and Gregory McGuckin received the GOP endorsement. Running as Conservative Republicans are two Toms River residents, Geraldine Ambrosio and Brian Quinn.
  • In the 12th District, Ahmed Basuoni of Old Bridge filed in the Assembly Republican primary under the slogan For Love of America. The incumbent assemblymen are Ronald Dancer and Robert Clifton.
  • There are primary contests for both the Assembly and Senate in the 16th District, which spans parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties. Two Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination for Senate: Michael Pappas, a former congressman from Branchburg and Jeffrey Grant of Belle Mead. Three Democrats filed for two Assembly slots: Assemblyman Roy Freiman is running with former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, and Faris Zwirahn of Princeton also filed petitions.
  • In the 18th District in Middlesex County, two full slates of candidates are contesting the Democratic primary. The party endorsed incumbent Sen. Patrick Diegnan Jr. and Assemblymen Robert Karabinchak and Sterley Stanley. The other slate is composed of Mohin Patel of Edison for Senate and Lisa Salem of Edison and Maurice Alfaro Sr. of Metuchen, all running under the slogan Middlesex Democratic Party.
  • Three Republicans are vying for two Assembly slots in the 21st District, which encompasses parts of Union, Morris and Somerset counties. Incumbent Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz is running with Michele Matsikoudis with party backing. Jennifer Makar of Roselle Park also filed petitions.
  • In the 28th District, which covers part of Newark and other nearby communities, Democratic Sen. Ronald Rice is facing a challenge from Quadir Selby of Irvington.
  • Three Republicans are seeking two Assembly nominations in the 30th District, which covers parts of Monmouth and Ocean counties. Assemblymen Sean Kean and Edward Thomson are facing a challenge from Alter Eliezer Richter, an unsuccessful GOP congressional primary candidate last year.

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