Primaries results are not the basis for predicting general election winners but they narrow the field and are indicators of what might happen. Yesterday there were no significant surprises. The four incumbent Democrats and the two Democrats running for seats vacated by Democrats in this session all won, and they appear well-positioned to win in November. It seems we will soon welcome a much-needed woman and NJ’s first African-American woman, Bonnie Watson Coleman (D), to our congressional contingent. Republican incumbents may have the upper hand in their districts, but in several cases they seem to be facing stiffer opposition than before. (See below the fold.) An upset in just one Republican district would give us a majority of Democrats in Washington.
Incumbents Frank Pallone (D) (CD 6), Bill Pascrell (D) (CD 9) and Albio Sires (D) (CD 8) had no Democratic challengers. Donald Payne (CD 10) ran against three others and won overwhelmingly. In the two districts where a Democratic incumbent resigned, Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) defeated three opponents in the much-publicized race in CD 12, and Donald Norcross (D) (in both a Special and a Regular Primary) strongly defeated two challengers in CD 1.
So with six Democratic seats likely to remain Democratic, are there other seats where Democrats can oust a Republican? Below are three districts where Democratic challengers may be poised to launch a strong campaign.
CD 3 With Jon Runyan (R) resigning, this open seat probably offers the best chance for a Democratic upset. In 2008 John Adler (D) won with 13,000 more votes. In 2010 Runyan won with 6,000 more votes, and in 2012 with almost 30,000 more votes. Aimee Belgard (D) now faces Tom MacArthur (R). In the 2012 primary Runyan ran unopposed and received received 22,013 votes, while Shelley Adler (D) also ran unopposed and garnered an even larger 37,189 votes. In yesterday’s acrimonious Republican primary MacArthur won and received 15,261 votes while Steve Lonegan trailed him with 10,314 votes – in total slightly more votes than Runyan received in 2012. Democrat Belgard gained 11,649 votes with two other Democrats receiving 2,296 votes – in total substantially less that the 37,189 votes Shelley Adler received in 2012. The fact that Republicans got more votes than in the last primary and Democrats got substantially less votes does not bode well for Belgard. She has a respectable war chest (cash on hand: $332,104) but her carpet-bagger opponent loaned himself $2 million. Nonetheless, she has been chosen for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program which provides financial and strategic support, and she has been placed on EMILY’s List, which provides access to a network 3 million strong. The district has about 9,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. The race is probably a toss-up at this moment. Outside cash will flow in for both candidates, and it remains a possible Democratic win in November.
CD 2 This the land of Frank LoBiondo (R), in office since 1992, who re-won the election in 2012 with 50,000 more votes than Cassandra Shober (D). Perhaps the land is now a little more shaky with Democrat William Hughes as the challenger. In the 2012 primary with one opponent LoBiondo won with 20,551 votes whereas Shober, with three opponents, won with 9,810 votes. In yesterday’s primary there were two candidates in each party and LoBiondo received 13,736 votes and Hughes received 10,922 votes. In effect in yesterday’s primary LoBiondo received about half as many votes as last year while Hughes won with slightly more than Shober’s vote. Hughes’ district has been chosen as an “emerging race” within the DCCC’s Red to Blue Program. He has a respectable $342,198 cash on hand, while LoBiondo has $1,385,209. The district has about 10,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. This is another battleground where the fight will be difficult but possibly winnable.
CD 5 Here arch-conservative ideologue Scott Garret has held sway since 2003, but in 2012 won by only 37,000 more votes. Within an earlier redistricted area which added more Democrats, Roy Cho (D) may yet offer stronger competition than last time. In the 2012 primary Scott Garret, with one minor opponent received 24,709 votes, while party-supported Adam Gussen (D) received 10,208 votes, and another Democrat Jason Castle received 6,448 votes. In yesterday’s primary Cho garnered 8,983 votes, less than Gussen in the last primary. Cho’s respectable $302,816 cash on hand is considerably higher than that of his predecessor but it is dwarfed by Garrett’s $2,996,630. (Financial institutions and big corporations love Garrett). The district has about 12,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. Cho has not yet sent out a district-wide mailer, but he used robo calls to help with the primary GOTV. It is clearly a difficult, uphill battle, but victory would be so sweet.
In other races CD 7 Incumbent Leonard Lance (R), since 2009, received fewer primary votes yesterday than in 2012. In the 2012 General Election Lance won by 53,000 more votes. There are about 30,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. Challenger Janice Kovach (D), who got off to a rough start and has only $10,983 cash on hand (vs. Lance’s $389,040), will have a tough row to hoe.
CD 11: Incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen (R), since 1995, received 15,379 votes yesterday, only half the votes than in 2012. He won the 2012 general election with 58,000 more votes. The district has 14,000 more Republicans. With no Democratic challenger in the last primary, Mark Dunec (D) got 6,855 votes yesterday. He has $58,035 cash on hand vs. Frelinghuysen’s $534,847 and a tough race ahead.
CD 4 Incumbent Chris Smith (R), since 1981, and challenger Ruben Scolavino (D) were in uncontested races. Smith won the last general election by 87,000 votes. It was nice to see a Scolavino booth at the Gay Pride Asbury Park event last weekend, but he has reported no receipts nor expenditures to the FEC whereas Smith has $282,277 cash on hand. Another very difficult Democratic campaign.
Note: the above results from last night’s primary are not final, and there will be minor changes once all votes are counted.