Midterm Primary: Stronger turnout and more clarity on the likely General Elections results

In Monday’s post there was turnout data from 2016 and 2014 for each of the five congressional seats in play – four Republican and one Democratic. The turnout in yesterday’s Primary tells us about how energized the base of both parties will be going into November – a harbinger but not the last word on the General Election’s results. As we now have yesterday’s data we can compare the turnout with that of 2014 and 2016 and determine the varying strength of the contestants with a view toward November. 

A few general points: Presidential year elections yield higher turnout than the midterms. Robust competitive races yield higher turnout. No competitor in a race depresses turnout. Where a district is not in play (the result seems assured as in seven districts this year) there is decreased turnout. Of the current 3,399,778 registered Republicans and Democrats, 63.2% are Democrats and 32.8% are Republicans, so one would expect higher Democratic turnout than Republican.  


Incumbent Democrat Robert Menendez won with  258,042 votes, the highest number in his three campaigns, whereas, his challenger-to-be Bob Hugin (R) received only 167,000 votes. In the one other campaign (2006) where Menendez had a Dem challenger, he won with 159,604 votes against James Kelly with 30,340. While the total turnout in yesterday’s Dem election was the highest ever in a Menendez contest, his Dem challenger, Lisa McCormick, a last minute entry with scant resources and staffing, received 36.8% of the votes vs. his 63.1%. Total Dem turnout was 415,305 vs the Republican 222,229. Menendez, scarred by an ethics indictment which resulted in a hung jury, seems nonetheless to have emerged in a strong position to continue his quest for re-election.  


CD 2 Open seat after resignation of Frank LoBiondo

Jeff Van Drew, a DINO with strong party support, received 15,645 votes (55.4%) of the Dem total vs. his GOP challenger-to-be Seth Grossman, a Trump supporter, who got 10,101 votes, 39% of the GOP total. The total Dem turnout of 28,233 was higher than that of the 2014 midterm of 13,999 but less than that during the 2016 presidential election of 48,913. The total Republican turnout of 25,901 followed a similar pattern. With some increase in Dem turnout but significant combined competition from his peers, VanDrew, nonetheless, appears to be off to a good start against Grossman.  


Both incumbent Tom MacArthur (R) and Andy Kim (D) were uncontested. For uncontested races the vote count and turnout is not immediately available. 


For Josh Gottheimer’s uncontested race data is not immediately available. In the Republican race John McCann, a Trump supporter who had the Republican line, defeated Steve Lonegan, another Trump supporter with 16,598 votes (53.0%) to 14,728 votes (47.0%). The total GOP turnout of 31,326 was double that of 2014, but considerably below that of 2016 (43,250.) 


Dem Tom Malinowski received 26,059 votes, 66.8% of the total Dem votes, while his challenger-to-be incumbent Leonard Lance received 24,841 votes, 74.9%. The total Dem turnout of 39,008 exceeded that of 2014 (8,768) but was considerably lower than that of 2016 (46,152).The Republican turnout of 33,156 followed a similar pattern. With the number of votes for both leading candidates being close and the Dem turnout good but not great, it appears a close race is developing.  

CD 11 Open seat following resignation of Rodney Frelighuysen

Dem Mikie Sherrill (in above preview photo) won with a stupendous 34,804 votes (77.3%) against four Dem contenders, vs. ultra-conservative Jay Webber who garnered 16,763 votes (39.9%.) with three conteders. The total Dem turnout of 44,996 votes exceeded that of 2014 (midterm) 8,071 and was above that of 2016 (Presidential election) 43,439. The Republican turnout was also high with 41,974 votes vs. 23,525 in 2014 and 58,527 in 2016. Sherrill appears to be off to a flying start – an excellent position for a former Navy pilot. 

In a nutshell, Sen. Menendez (D) remains a highly viable candidate, Jeff Van Drew (D), despite his conservative proclivities, is off to a good start. Tom Malinowski (D), with the Dem line, did well but appears to be in a competitive race against Leonard Lance (R), and Mikie Sherrill(D) is off to a very strong start.  Only in CD 11 did the turnout exceed that of both 2014 and 2016, but in the other cases it was an improvement over 2014. Without data for CD 5 one might surmise that Incumbent Dem Josh Gottheimer, a fiscal conservative but social progressive has the upper hand against the conservative Trump supporter. In CD 3, likewise still without data, one might guess that Dem. Andy Kim has a steep, but not unsurmountable, hill to climb against MacArthur with his big bag of dollar bills. The status of the other races not in play, all Democratic seats except in CD 4, continues to bode well for incumbents.

The more final, accurate data from the election, plus, voter tallies and turnout in the uncontested races should be available in a day or two from NJ Division of Elections. The above election results, with typically 99% of the votes tallied, were those available early this morning here from the NY Times. The data for 2014 and 2016 primaries is from the NJ Division of Elections.

Comments (2)

  1. Stephen Danley

    Curious why you think it was a strong Menendez showing — most analysis I’ve seen leans the opposite way. Seems to both show that Dems have lots of energy, and that there is a significant portion of the Dem electorate extremely skeptical of Menendez. In a nutshell Menendez remains a highly viable candidate.

  2. Bill Orr (Post author)

    He won with 258,042 votes, the highest number in his three primary campaigns, the total Dem turnout in a primary of his was the highest ever, he got 91,000 more votes than Hugin, and Republican turnout for Hugin was weak. McCormick gave him a run for the money, but she is no longer in the race, and those who voted for Menendez are unlikely to switch to Hugin, while many Dems who voted for McCormick are likely to prefer Menendez over Hugin. Registered Dems statewide are at 63.2% with Republicans at 32.8%. NJ remains a very blue state even when adding in the unaffiliated. Antipathy in NJ overall toward Trump remains high. In a nutshell, Menendez remains “a highly viable candidate,” as indicated above.


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