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Stories about New Jersey

New Jersey sees the most candidates running for the U.S. House since at least 2014

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in New Jersey this year was April 4, 2022. Fifty-five candidates are running for New Jersey’s 12 U.S. House districts, including 20 Democrats and 35 Republicans. That’s 4.58 candidates per district, more than the 4.17 candidates per district in 2020 and the 4.08 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. New Jersey was apportioned 12 districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • The 55 candidates running this year are the highest number of candidates running for New Jersey’s U.S. House seats since at least 2014, when 45 candidates filed.

  • Rep. Albio Sires (D) is retiring, making the 8th district the only open seat this year. That’s one more than in 2020, when there were no open seats, and one less than in 2018, when the 2nd and the 11th districts were open.
  • Nine candidates — seven Republicans and two Democrats, including incumbent Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) — filed to run in the 7th district, the most running for one seat this year. That’s two more than in 2020, when seven candidates ran in the 2nd district, and one less than in 2018, when 10 candidates ran in the 11th district.  
  • There are six contested Democratic primaries this year, the lowest number since 2016, and 10 contested Republican primaries, the most since at least 2014. 
  • Five incumbents — all Democrats — are not facing any primary challengers this year. That’s one more than in 2020, when four incumbents did not face any primary challengers. 
  • Candidates filed to run in the Republican and Democratic primaries in all 12 districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 

New Jersey and six other states — California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota — are holding primary elections on June 7. Winners in New Jersey primary elections are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate with the highest number of votes wins even if he or she did not win more than 50% of votes cast.

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New Jersey Legislative Reapportionment Commission enacts new legislative maps

The New Jersey Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted to enact new state legislative district maps on Feb. 18, 2022. The maps will take effect for New Jersey’s 2023 state legislative elections.

The commission voted 9-2 to approve the maps. Thomas Kean Jr. (R) and Cosmo A. Cirillo (D) were the two dissenting votes. The New Jersey Monitor’s Nikita Biryukov wrote that the vote was “an unprecedented compromise for a commission that has historically relied on a court-appointed tiebreaker to end partisan gridlock.”

New Jersey’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission included five Democratic members and five Republican members, each respectively appointed by the chairs of the state’s Democratic and Republican parties. New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named Philip Carchman as a tiebreaking eleventh member.

Regarding the enacted maps, Republican Chairman Al Barlas said “We all said we were looking to end in a day where everyone would be proud and we would do something potentially historic and give the residents of the state a map they could all be proud of and I think we did that today.” 

Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones said that “consensus cannot be achieved without compromise from all parties. […] Many of our commissioners and party leaders were left with very difficult choices, which includes some very longtime and very well-respected Democratic state senators who now find themselves in the same district.” 

As of Feb. 23, 36 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers, and one state has adopted maps that have not yet gone into effect. The state supreme courts in two states have overturned previously enacted maps, and 11 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. As of Feb. 23, 2012, 39 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, states have completed legislative redistricting for 1,532 of 1,972 state Senate seats (77.7%) and 3,545 of 5,411 state House seats (65.5%).

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Upcoming state supreme court vacancy in New Jersey

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina is scheduled to retire from the court on Feb. 15 upon reaching the state’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. Fernandez-Vina’s replacement will be Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) third nominee to the seven-member supreme court. 

In New Jersey, state supreme court justices are selected through direct gubernatorial appointment. Justices are appointed directly by the governor without the use of a nominating commission. As of Jan. 4, there are five states that use this selection method. To read more about the gubernatorial appointment of judges, click here.

Justice Fernandez-Vina joined the court on Nov. 19, 2013, following an appointment by Gov. Chris Christie (R). Before serving on the state supreme court, Fernandez-Vina served as a legal associate and as a partner with private law firms.

He received a B.A. in history from Widener University in 1974 and a J.D. from Rutgers University in 1978. After law school, Fernandez-Vina clerked for New Jersey Superior Court Judge E. Stevenson Fluharty.

In 2022, there are four supreme court vacancies pending in three of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements.

Three of the vacancies—in Maryland and Wyoming—are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy—in New Jersey—is in a state where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement.

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Phil Murphy becomes the first Democrat to win re-election as governor of New Jersey since 1977

Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) defeated former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R), becoming the first Democrat to win re-election as governor of New Jersey since 1977.

As of 9:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, Murphy led Ciattarelli by a margin of 19,440 votes or 0.8 percentage points. If this margin holds, it will be 13 percentage points narrower than Murphy’s initial election in 2017. It would also make this election the closest gubernatorial election in New Jersey since Thomas Kean (R) defeated James Florio (D) by a margin of 0.1 percentage points in 1981. The results may also be subject to a recount. In New Jersey, any candidate can request a recount within 17 days of the election.

Charles Stile of NorthJersey.com called the election a “race to the bottom” in a September 2021 article, citing Murphy and Ciattarelli’s negative attacks targeting the other. Murphy used campaign ads and events to portray Ciattarelli as out of touch with the state’s electorate and wanting to introduce former President Donald Trump‘s (R) agenda to the state. Ciattarelli highlighted issues such as taxes and the handling of sexual abuse allegations to frame Murphy as an elected official who does not understand the needs of average New Jerseyites.

Murphy’s win preserves New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta, as well as its Democratic triplex. A win for Ciattarelli would have broken New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta and replaced the state’s Democratic triplex with a Republican triplex.

In New Jersey, gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates run together on joint tickets. Along with Murphy, incumbent Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) was re-elected.

Learn more here.

New Jersey voters reject expanded sports betting amendment, approve change to raffle law

Voters in New Jersey decided two constitutional amendments on Nov. 2, approving one and rejecting the other. Proposal 1 was rejected by 56.8% of voters. It would have allowed wagering on all college sports competitions. As of 2021, the state constitution permitted sports betting except on games held in New Jersey and on games featuring New Jersey-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would have expanded sports betting to include all college sports competitions.

Proposal 2 was approved by 64.1% of voters. The ballot measure allowed organizations that are permitted to hold raffles to keep the raffle proceeds to support themselves. As of 2021, the New Jersey Constitution limited bingo and raffles to several types of organizations, including veterans, charitable, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations; civic and service clubs; senior citizen associations; and volunteer fire companies and volunteer first-aid and rescue squads. Of these organizations, veterans and senior citizen organizations were allowed to use proceeds from bingo or raffles to support their groups. The other organizations were prohibited from doing so.

Both of the constitutional amendments were put on the ballot by the New Jersey General Assembly. Legislative Democrats and most Republicans voted to put Proposal 1 on the ballot. Legislators unanimously voted to put Proposal 2 on the ballot.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Jersey voters decided 35 constitutional amendments, approving 32 (91.4%) of them. Before 2021, the last amendment to be rejected was Question 1 of 2016. It would have authorized two casinos in northern New Jersey.

Paula Jones, Younass Mohamed Barkouch, and Natalia Ioffe elected to the Jersey City Public Schools school board

Paula Jones, Younass Mohamed Barkouch, and Natalia Ioffe won election to the three at-large open seats on the Jersey City Public Schools school board. As of 1:00 a.m. EST, Jones had received 23.6% of the vote, Barkouch had received 19.8%, and Ioffe had received 19.6%. None of the other six candidates had received more than 10% of the vote. 

Jones, Barkouch, and Ioffe ran on the Education Matters slate with an endorsement from the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). Their election means that NJEA-backed candidates will maintain their 7-2 majority on the board. 

The three seats were open since three incumbents didn’t seek re-election—Mussab Ali, Marilyn Roman, and Joan Terrell-Paige. They were last elected in 2018 on the Education Matters slate. In 2020, the Education Matters slate won all three seats up for election. In 2019, the Education Matters slate won three seats and two members of the Change for Childrenslate won the other two up for election.

To read more about the Jersey City Public Schools election, click here.

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice selects Philip Carchman as Legislative Reapportionment Commission tiebreaker

On Oct. 7, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named Philip Carchman as the tiebreaker member of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Carchman is a former state appellate court judge of the New Jersey Superior Court.

In July, Rabner requested tiebreaker proposals from the Democratic and Republican members of the commission, saying: “If there is a match, I would be favorably inclined to appoint the individual.” The members submitted lists of candidates in August, but no names matched between the lists. Carchman did not appear on either party’s list of recommended candidates.

The New Jersey Supreme Court also selected the tiebreaker for the Congressional Redistricting Commission. A majority of the court voted to select John Wallace, a retired New Jersey Supreme Court justice, to act as a tiebreaker after the commission members were unable to agree on a candidate.

The state constitution gives the chief justice authority to choose an 11th member of the commission to break a tie in the event that the commission cannot reach agreement on state legislative district maps. The redistricting process will officially begin in New Jersey on Oct. 23. Legislative redistricting maps must be approved by March 1, 2022.

Eight state legislative incumbents—3.9% of those seeking re-election—lost in contested primaries

Eight state legislative incumbents—five Democrats and three Republicans— lost in primaries in 2022, representing 3.9% of all incumbents who filed for re-election and 20% of all incumbents who faced contested primaries.

This was an average number of incumbents defeated in primaries compared to the five odd-year election cycles before it. Sixteen incumbents lost primaries in 2019. No incumbents lost primaries in 2017.

Two hundred and twenty state legislative seats are up for election on Nov. 2, 2021, in three state legislative chambers: the New Jersey State Senate and General Assembly and the Virginia House of Delegates.

Two of the three chambers holding elections this year saw decade-high numbers of incumbents lose in primaries: the New Jersey General Assembly (3) and the Virginia House of Delegates (5). Incumbents have won every contested primary in the New Jersey State State Senate since 2003.

Among these three chambers, the eight incumbents defeated also marks a decade-high. Ahead of the general elections, the 2021 cycle is already tied for the second-most incumbents defeated among these chambers over the preceding decade.

The five Democratic incumbents who lost in primaries represent 4.0% of all Democratic incumbents who filed for re-election and 21.7% of all Democratic incumbents who faced contested primaries.

The three Republican incumbents who lost represent 3.8% of all Republicans who filed for re-election and 17.6% of those who faced contested primaries.

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Vincent Polistina selected to fill New Jersey state Senate vacancy, unclear when he will take office

On Aug. 4, 2021, the Atlantic County Republican Committee selected Vincent Polistina (R) to fill the vacant District 2 seat in the state Senate, replacing Chris Brown (R). However, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), who traditionally administers the oath of office, had in late June gaveled the chamber out of session until November.

According to WPG Talk Radio, Polistina was sworn in by retired superior court judge Joseph E. Kane on Aug. 23, 2021. However, according to the New Jersey Globe, a Senate Majority Office official said Polistina’s swearing-in “is not official until he’s sworn in at a quorum.” The executive director of the nonpartisan New Jersey Office of Legislative Services (OLS), Peri A. Horowitz, agreed, stating that “Mr. Polistina is not a member of the Legislature at this time. OLS considers Mr. Polistina to be a senator-select, pending receipt of confirmation from the Senate that he has been sworn-in and his election and qualifications have been judged acceptable by the members of the house.”

According to Politico, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. and state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R) both say the swearing-in session was legitimate.

As of Aug. 31, 2021, Senate President Sweeney has not indicated he will convene the state Senate early for Polistina’s swearing-in.

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Major party competition reaches a decade-high in the 2021 state legislative elections

The percentage of state legislative seats being contested by both major parties in 2021 is higher than at any point in the past decade, according to a Ballotpedia analysis of candidate filings. Of the 220 seats up for election in New Jersey and Virginia, 93% are set to feature a Democrat versus a Republican on the general election ballot this November. Of the remaining 15 seats, ten will likely be won by Democrats since they have no Republican competitors and five will likely be won by Republicans.

This is the first state legislative election cycle since at least 2010 where more than 90% of state legislative seats up for election nationwide were contested by both major parties. This increase in major party competition was largely driven by an increased level of competitiveness in the Virginia House of Delegates over the past decade. 

In 2011, less than half of the seats in the chamber were contested by both major parties. In 2021, 93% of seats featured major party competition, an increase of 52 percentage points over the decade. The chamber began trending more competitive in 2017 when Democrats contested 57% more seats than they had in 2015. Both parties continued to increase their numbers of contested seats in 2019 and 2021.

By comparison, state legislative elections in New Jersey have tended to feature higher levels of major party competition throughout the decade. At least 90% of seats have been contested by both major parties in each election cycle from 2011 to 2021 in both the Senate and General Assembly.

In the Senate, which saw its decade-high number of uncontested seats in 2021, the rate of major party competition remained above 92%.

In the General Assembly, Democrats have contested every seat since 2017. The highest number of uncontested seats in the chamber came in 2015 when eight seats, or 10%, were effectively guaranteed to one of the two major parties.

Major party competition refers to the percentage of state legislative seats where voters have the ability to choose between one of the two major parties: Democrats or Republicans. These figures are subject to change ahead of the November general elections as candidates of either party may still drop out. Ballotpedia will continue to provide updates throughout the election cycle.

Major party competition is one component of Ballotpedia’s annual state legislative competitiveness study, which also includes analyses of incumbents in contested primaries and open seats.

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