Amy Kennedy primary win stuns South Jersey political machine

Amy Kennedy, the daughter-in-law of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, stunned some of the state’s top Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District race. But not Gov. Phil Murphy, who endorsed Kennedy and introduced her on election night.

Kennedy upset the South Jersey political machine of George Norcross. Minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, Norcross was the first to project Kennedy’s victory and to congratulate her. He had supported her opponent, college political science professor Brigid Callahan Harrison.

“Well, this is a tough moment for me. Tonight is a great moment for the Democratic Party,” Harrison said in her concession speech Tuesday night.

One observer says Kennedy’s TV campaign was so smart that if she walked down the street you’d know who she was.

Political analyst Micah Rasmussen speculates about the voters.

“There was probably some backlash against Norcross, against the South Jersey machine. The disaffected Democrats in South Jersey resented the fact that Norcross and the county Democratic leaders throughout South Jersey were trying to dictate to them, probably right after they dictated to them and pushed Van Drew down their throats,” said Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Kennedy will challenge incumbent and former Democrat Jeff Van Drew. He switched to the Republican Party during the impeachment proceedings, pledging his “undying support” to the President Donald Trump.

Both national parties have taken a keen interest in the fall showdown and plan to spend millions on it.

In the 3rd Congressional District – outspent entrepreneur David Richter put $600,000 of his own money in a projected win over Kate Gibbs, who’s conceded.

NJ Spotlight Editor At Large Colleen O’Dea says Richter used highway tolls to drive Gibbs to defeat.

“Some have said that her union affiliation and that union’s backing of the Turnpike and Parkway toll hikes that are coming in September may have really done her in,” O’Dea said.

Richter overcame Gibbs’ Republican Party endorsement in Burlington County.

“We absolutely outperformed in Burlington County and I’m really happy about that. It positions us very well in the general,” Richter said.

Richter will challenge who he calls the well-funded incumbent, Democrat Andy Kim in a race the Cook Political Report calls a toss-up.

Elsewhere, congressional incumbents – some apparently staving off insurgent progressives – captured their party’s nominations in a state where no congressional incumbent has lost a primary race in 40 years.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s widening lead over challenger Larry Hamm secured his victory while the Republican race seems too close to call

A machine called a tabulator is still counting ballots in the mostly vote-by-mail election because of the pandemic.

Only half the polls were open on Tuesday, but only those with disabilities were allowed to vote on machines. Others who wanted to vote in person could only do so by filling out a paper provisional ballot. Union County’s collecting thousands of provisional ballots that take four times longer to process than mail-in ballots.

Union County Board of Elections Administrator Nicole DiRado says if the pandemic persists, New Jersey should have no in-person voting.

“I have coworkers who did not want to wear masks yesterday. We’re putting people, I think, at risk,” she said.

There were will be plenty more lessons to share about New Jersey’s largely vote-by-mail primary before the next big vote in November.