NJ Democrats are likely to retain their legislative majorities after hard-fought races

Democrats in New Jersey appear likely to hold on to comfortable majorities in the House and Senate, according to early results from the Associated Press’ races Tuesday.

“It was a big night,” said Nick Scutari, the Democratic Senate president. “We had good candidates. That’s why I felt confident going into this week.”

Two years ago, with the state’s Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, at the top of the ticket, Republicans picked up seven seats in the Legislature. Voters angered by the government’s Covid-19 mandates turned out in droves, a turnout many losers called a “red wave”. Mr. Murphy became New Jersey’s first Democratic governor to be re-elected in 44 years, but won by just three points.

On Tuesday, all 120 Democratic-led seats in the state legislature were back on the ballot, with Republicans hoping to tally further gains.

But as of 11:30 p.m., Democrats held on to win competitive districts in southern and central New Jersey and led in other key races.

Before Tuesday’s vote, Democrats held a 25-15 majority in the Senate and a 46-34 advantage in the Assembly; it’s been two decades since Republicans have held majorities in both chambers.

Two years ago, the most spectacular loss for Democrats was in South Jersey, where Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democratic labor leader who was the Senate president at the time, lost his seat to Edward Durr Jr., a conservative candidate running on a shoestring budget.

Mr. Durr, a furniture store driver who adopted the nickname Ed the Trucker, lost to the Democratic candidate, John J. Burzichelli, by six percentage points. Mr. Burzichelli represented the district in the Assembly for 20 years before losing in 2021.

The chances of Republicans overtaking Democrats in the State House were always high.

“We’re close enough,” Alexandra Wilkes, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Republican Party, said last week about the possibility of winning a majority in both chambers, “but we have to hit the target right every time.”

In Monmouth County, a largely conservative area on the Jersey Shore, three Republican incumbents lost seats, according to AP results.

Shaun Golden, chairman of the Monmouth County Republican Committee, acknowledged that the candidates “failed.”

“Our legislative record is, frankly, a mixed bag,” he said in a statement.

Much of the campaign rhetoric revolved around cultural wedge issues, including abortion rights and whether schools should be required to tell parents about how students express their gender. State policies aimed at making residents less dependent on gas stoves and vehicles have also been used by Republicans to shore up their base.

On Tuesday night, Sen. Andrew Zwicker, a Democrat who was first elected in District 16, near Princeton, N.J., by less than 100 votes, was still knocking on doors after sunset in South Brunswick, hoping to convince residents to vote . During the campaign, he was attacked for legislation opposing the banning of books in schools and in support of transgender youth.

Mr. Zwicker, a scientist who works at Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, said he hoped District residents would “see through it.”

Apparently they are. He defeated his Republican opponent, Mike Pappas, a former congressman, by about 12 percentage points.

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