This year is an especially interesting one in New Jersey as all 120 legislative seats are on the ballot. If it seems like your legislators all just ran for (re)election, you’re correct. Typically, the state Assembly is up for election every two years, and the state Senate is up for election every four years. However—due to the census and redistricting every 10 years—the Senate’s first term of a new decade lasts only two years.
As required by the state Constitution, the congressional and legislative districts must be redrawn to reflect the newest census data. The new legislative map that the Apportionment Commission adopted last year will have influence on this year’s races. For starters, it puts four Senate Democrats into two districts, and makes some competitive districts friendlier to Republicans and others friendlier to Democrats. Additionally, as of this writing, more than a dozen legislators (more than 10% of the Legislature) have announced that they will not be running for re-election in November.
Here is where things stand in the legislative districts to watch (as of March 1, 2023—there may be more to come):
3rd (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties)—Previously, this district was represented by former Senate President Steve Sweeney, who was unexpectedly ousted by Republican Edward “Ed the Trucker” Durr in the last election. The entire slate was flipped from Democrat to Republican. In contrast to recent years when the Democrat candidates were elected. This time around, not only are there rumblings that Sweeney may try to mount a comeback, but the current incumbents are running on different tickets. Durr and Assemblywoman Bethanne McCarthy Patrick are running for re-election with township Committeeman Tom Tedesco. Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, who has been critical of the senator and contemplated challenging him for the Senate seat, has decided to run on a different ticket with Salem County Commissioner Mickey Ostrum as the Senate candidate and township committeeman Adam Wingate as the Assembly candidate.
4th (Camden and Gloucester counties)—Several Republican municipalities were added to this district this go-round—creating a more competitive race for the Democratic incumbents. Sen. Fred Madden, the current chair of the Senate Labor Committee, has not yet indicated if he will run for re-election. The latest rumor has former Democratic Assemblyman David Mayer, a four-term mayor of Gloucester Township, running for Madden’s seat if he decides to vacate it. It’s also not certain whether Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera will run again; current nine-term Assemblyman Paul Moriarty is likely to run to keep his current Assembly seat.
8th (Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties)—Sen. Jean Stanfield—a freshman senator, who previously served one term in the Assembly—has announced that she will retire at the end of the legislative session. You may recall from the last election that she ousted Democratic incumbent Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, who had switched parties in 2019. Candidates for Stanfield’s seat have yet to emerge, but rumored names include former Assemblyman Ryan Peters, as well as Stanfield’s two district-mates, Assemblyman Brandon Umba or Assemblyman Michael Torrissi. Due to the competitive nature of this district, and the fact that Democrats have it in their sights, Republicans will likely want to avoid a primary by selecting a consensus candidate.
9th (Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean counties)—Sen. Chris Connors, who has spent more than three decades in the Legislature, will be retiring from it. Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato has declared his candidacy for the open Senate seat. Assembly incumbents, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman Diane Gove, have both announced their intentions to seek re-election. However, Gove was rejected by her county’s steering committee (after she and Rumpf backed the wrong horse for county party chair). She has said she will make her case at the party’s county convention, but assuming she does not win the party line in that forum, she will need to decide whether to bow out or to let the general public decide in a primary context.
10th (Ocean County)—Assemblyman John Catalano announced that he will not seek re-election in the Assembly, and instead he will focus on running for mayor of Brick. His running mate, Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, lost the support of the Ocean County Republicans, making it harder for him to win the party line in the upcoming county convention. The GOP in this district seems to favor Toms River school board member Ashley Lamb and former Brick Councilwoman Ruthanne Scaturro for the two Assembly seats.
11th (Monmouth County)—This district has become more competitive in the last 10 years. In the last election, all three races were close, and eventually resulted in Sen. Vin Gopal keeping his seat, while his Democratic Assembly running mates were defeated by Republicans Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno—making the district the only one in the state with split representation. Both parties have identified picking up seats in this district as one of their highest priorities. Democrats have tapped Dr. Margie Donlon and retired Judge Luanne Peterpaul to run on Gopal’s ticket for the Assembly. And, Steve Dnistrian, a corporate and non-profit executive, announced in early February that he is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Gopal. Expect the races in this district to be one of the most expensive in New Jersey’s history.
14th (Mercer and Middlesex counties)—Assemblyman Dan Benson, current chair of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, is challenging the incumbent Mercer County executive in a heated primary contest. Tennille McCoy, who previously worked in the Murphy Administration, is seeking the Democratic nomination to fill the Assembly vacancy. Additionally, incumbent Democratic Sen. Linda Greenstein is being challenged by Republican Patricia Johnson, a medical professional from Hamilton Township, who ran for Assembly in Legislative District 15 in the last election.
16th (Hunterdon, Somerset and Mercer counties)—This historically Republican district has become more Democratic over the years. After the Senate seat was flipped in the last election, the entire slate is now held by all Democrats: Sen. Andrew Zwicker, Assemblyman Roy Freiman and Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer. Jaffer, a new legislator in her first term, recently (and surprisingly) announced that she would not be seeking re-election. Mitchelle Drulis, former district director for then-Congressman Tom Malinowski, is currently most likely to win the Democratic Party’s support to run for Jaffer’s seat. This district, while leaning more Democratic, is far from a sure thing, however. Expect Republicans to make a push in the general election.
24th (Morris, Sussex and Warren counties)—Sen. Steve Oroho, who became the Senate Republican Leader at the beginning of this legislative session, recently (and also surprisingly) announced that he would not be seeking re-election. The two Assemblymen in his district—Parker Space and Hal Wirths—previously had announced that they would not be seeking re-election. Upon hearing the senator’s news, however, Space decided to enter the race for Senate. Steve Lonegan, a frequent Republican candidate for office, has launched his campaign to challenge Space for the Republican Senate nomination. In this strong Republican district, the winner of the primary will be the presumptive winner of the general election and will be on their way to Trenton in 2024.
27th (Essex and Morris counties)—During the redistricting process, Sen. Nia Gill’s hometown of Montclair was moved from the 34th district into former Gov. Richard Codey’s district. While Codey has declared his intentions to run for re-election and Gill has yet to make her decision, insiders expect that the Essex County Democrats will most likely run against each other in a primary, with Codey as the favored winner. Additionally, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey recently announced that she will retire at the end of the legislative session. Assemblyman Tom Giblin, whose hometown of Clifton also was redistricted from District 34 to District 27, will round out the Assembly ticket with Assemblyman John McKeon.
32nd/33rd (Bergen and Hudson counties)—During the redistricting process, Sen. Brian Stack’s hometown of Union City (District 33) was moved into Sen. Nick Sacco’s district (District 32). Sacco bowed out of the race and endorsed Stack for the Senate seat to represent the Hudson County area. In Stack’s former district, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji will run for the vacant Senate seat. Additionally, Assemblymembers Angelica Jimenez and Pedro Mejia (District 32) and Annette Chaparro (District 33) have announced that they are not running for re-election—although, it has been rumored that the incumbents may have wanted to stay in the Legislature and rather made this decision for “the good of their party” by avoiding primary contests. Jimenez now is running for West New York Commissioner.
34th (Essex County)—Current Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake will step up to the Senate seat for this district now that her two running mates (Sen. Gill and Assemblyman Giblin) have moved into District 27. District 28’s Assemblyman Ralph Caputo was redistricted into the new 34th, but he has announced his retirement and he is expected to be appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to the Board of Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NJ. That leaves two Assembly seats ready for newcomers in this solidly Democratic district.
39th (Bergen and Passaic counties)—Shortly after the district’s incumbents launched their re-election campaign, Assemblywoman DeAnne DeFuccio, a relatively new legislator announced that she will not pursue re-election only after having served one full term. Trenton scuttlebutt suggests that she expects to be nominated to a judicial position. District-mates Sen. Holly Schepisi and Assemblyman Bob Auth announced Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti as the newest member of their ticket in the Republican primary.
40th (Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties)—Assemblyman Kevin Rooney will retire from the Legislature, at the end of his term. Essex County GOP Chairman Al Barlas will succeed him on the ticket, and he will run with Sen. Kristin Corrado and Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips.