|Today we start our 3-part 2013 preview series with a look at legislative elections. Special and regularly-scheduled legislative races will happen in nine states, along with some competitive elections for the NYC Council.
There are several competitive races for the New Jersey legislature, with Republicans hoping Christie’s coattails can lead them to victory in spite of the Dem gerrymander. Six districts are generally regarded as competitive, and most follow the same outline: Republican challengers trying to ride the Christie wave and Democratic incumbents trying to emphasize personal popularity. Because State Rep. seats are the same as State Senate seats, most of the action is on the Senate side, with Assembly members usually doing little campaign-wise but ride their Senator’s coattails.
In the relatively conservative SD-1 around Cape May and Vineland, Democratic Incumbent State Sen. Jeff Van Drew has used his personal popularity to massively outperform Generic D. He faces businesswoman Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt. Van Drew’s assembly running mates may be in more trouble though, as State Rep. Nelson Albano has been dogged by ethics questions and the other seat is held by an appointed incumbent.
In SD-2, based around Atlantic City, Incumbent Dem Sen. Jim Whelan has held on through tough challenges even as the two State Rep. seats in the district have consistently elected Republicans. This year, Whelan is facing GOP Atlantic County SheriffFrank Balles, and is leading by large margins in the polls.
Based in the southwest corner of the state, SD-3 is currently held by Senate President Steve Sweeney. Sweeney is facing Harrison Township official Niki Trunk in a race that has become a high priority for Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. This seat is a blue-collar Dem bastion and generally considered one of the longer shots of the six.
Moving northward to the Trenton area, SD-14 is a study in contrasts: A wealthy progressive northern portion around Princeton is tied to blue-collar Hamilton Township by the gerrymander. Former GOP State Sen. Peter Inverso, a moderate who has run with labor support, is trying to get back the seat he retired from in 2007 by challenging incumbent Dem Linda Greenstein. This race will likely be something of a tug-of-war between the heavily D northern part of the district and R-leaning Hamilton.
In Buono’s own SD-18, the state’s only open Senate seat, Democratic State Rep. Peter Barnes is hoping to move up to the upper chamber by defeating D-turned-R East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl. This is a pretty strongly D seat based around Edison, but outside groups have been spending very heavily here, suggesting it may be one of the more competitive races.
The last competitive seat is SD-38 in central Bergen County. Incumbent Democrat Bob Gordon is facing GOP College ProfessorFernando Alonso. There has been no polling here, but CW is that this race may be the most competitive of the bunch.
Word is that in the final week, Christie will be making a major push in 14, 18, and 38, including cutting ads for those three Republicans, while essentially ignoring 1, 2, and 3 to preserve his semi-friendly relationship with Sweeney and the three senators’ common patron, South Jersey boss George Norcross.
Most of the NYC Council races are ultra-Safe D affairs, but there are a couple interesting spots….