CD 12: Does Bonnie Watson Coleman Have the Advantage?

There is little public polling done on NJ congressional races, but in the 12th Congressional District the Monmouth University Poll of May 19 finds “state Senator Linda Greenstein and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman are running neck-and-neck. Greenstein has the support of 25% of likely Democratic primary voters and Watson Coleman has 24%. Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula garners 11% and Princeton physicist Andrew Zwicker has 6%. 34% are undecided. Not very conclusive if you are wondering who will win.

Below the fold are several metrics that suggest which candidate has the advantage in this hotly contested primary on Tuesday.  

2012 CD12 Elections

In the 2012 Primary where Rush Holt was overwhelmingly expected to continue on as the Representative, and neither he nor his opponent had a competitor, the turnout was low – Rep. Rush Holt (D): 24,339 votes and Eric Beck (R): 9,361votes. 2014’s Primary race is now very competitive and will yield a higher turn-out. The 2012 General Election results are more telling: Holt won with 189,938 (70%) votes against Beck’s 80,907 (30%) votes.

County generated votes

While Rep. Holt in 2012 had the support of all four Democratic county committees, this year is different. Below are the three leading Democratic candidates, the county committees which support each candidate, and the number of votes each county generated for Holt in the 2012 General Election:

* Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman: Mercer: 76,115 and Union: 19,650 – total: 95,765 votes.

* State Senator Linda Greenstein: Middlesex: 71,597 votes.

* Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula: Somerset: 22,576 votes.

Assemblywoman Watson Coleman has the advantage with her counties providing more votes.

Municipalities delivering the vote

There are 31 municipalities within this CD and the three candidates as legislators represent 16 of them. Below are the CD 12 municipalities within each of the three candidates’ legislative districts and the number of Democratic votes cast in each municipality in 2012 for Rep. Holt:

* Assemblywoman Watson Coleman (LD 15: Mercer): Ewing (11,861), Hopewell Boro (860), Hopewell Township (5,780), Lawrence (10,088), Pennington (1,077), Trenton (20,497), and West Windsor (8,152).

* Senator Greenstein (LD14: Mercer & Middlesex): East Windsor (6,862), Cranbury (1,148), Jamesburg (1,051), Monroe (12,092), Plainsboro (5,511), and Spotswood (1,662).

* Assemblyman Chivukula (LD 17): Middlesex &  Somerset): Franklin (18,647), Milltown (1,994), and North Brunswick (9,741).

The municipalities within Assemblywoman Watson Coleman’s legislative district delivered more than twice the votes for Rep. Holt than those in Sen. Greenstein’s legislative district. Sen. Greenstein has to reach out to more municipalities that she does not represent.

Assemblywoman Watson Coleman has the  advantage.

Record in getting votes as legislators

Assemblywoman Watson Coleman has served her 15th legislative district since 1998. She and co-candidate Reed Gusciora faced no primary in last year’s legislative race and handily defeated their Republican contenders with nearly double the vote count. Sen. Greenstein served the 14th LD from 2000 to 2010 in the General Assembly, and then won a state Senate seat in a special election in the same district in 2010 by 36,411 to  31,311. She was re-elected in 2011 by 26,206 to 21,176, and re-elected in 2013 by an even closer 31,387 to 29,903 margin.

Assemblywoman Watson Coleman who has won her races with a higher success margin has the advantage.

Other municipalities

The municipalities which voted in substantial numbers for Rep. Holt but are not in a competing legislator’s district include Union’s Plainfield (11,877) and Middlesex’s South Brunswick (11,381) and East Brunswick (12,028) – a factor harder to calculate.


Through May 14 Watson Coleman has raised $271,327 and Greenstein has raised $243,653.

a slight advantage  for Watson Coleman. Chivukula has also raised a significant amount, $260,134, but lacks the party and broad support the two other leaders enjoy. Andrew Zwicker, a Princeton University physicist, who seems to embody the interests and tradition of Rush Holt, started late, has raised only $25,021, and should do well in the greater Princeton area but not elsewhere.

After the primary there may not be big outside funding as the district is heavily Democratic, and Republican candidate Dr. Alieta Eck (Somerset) can be viewed as a weak competitor. She has raised only $104,512, but she did not do all that poorly in the last U. S. Senate race – Cory Booker: 1,985,783 votes versus  Alieta Eck: 1,329,405 votes.

Bad press

Each candidate has had a bad press moment. Watson Coleman left the Select Committee on Investigation into Bridgegate after saying Gov. Chris Christie should resign. More recently a video of Greenstein surfaced revealing her in a bad moment and going nuclear on a roomful of Mercer County Democrats. Coleman’s remark on MSNBC was injudicious because as a committee member she should have appeared impartial, but she reflected what many Democrats probably think. Greenstein’s outburst angered the Mercer Democrats whom she should have been cultivating.

Assemblywoman Watson Coleman has the  advantage.

Short of well designed polls it is difficult to get hard data that project accurate election results. Even then individuals often don’t decide until the last moment and change their minds. There are other metrics one could use, but according to the above metrics Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has the advantage.

What do you think?

Watson Coleman, Greenstein, and Chivukula will be guests on NJTV’s On The record Saturday at 6:30pm and Sunday at 10:00am. Also see today’s Star-Ledger article about the race with background information on the four candidates. (Spoiler: there’s no prediction for the winner.)

Comments (4)

  1. 12mileseastofTrenton

    And if I had to bet, I think she’ll win.  When the race started I thought Greenstein would take it.  But BWC seems to have staked a firmer progressive ground.  I also wonder if Greenstein has a bit of a hangover from last year’s tough senate race.

  2. kwilkinson

    It might also be helpful to look at the Princeton numbers from before the census redistricted Princeton out of LD 15 (and any other Mercer towns that were re-districted).  

  3. Bill Orr (Post author)

    In the above diary there is a mention of the bad press she received from a video confrontation at a Mercer County Democratic Committee meeting where she said, “I repeat, everybody in here is my enemy, except for the people from Hamilton.” In today’s Star-Ledger article she says, “the video clip was taken out of context, and the description provided by Blue America PAC was inaccurate.”      


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