PPAG’s 2023 Post-Election Analysis

The composition in the Senate remains 25-15 with Democrats and Republicans both flipping one seat; Democrats gain 5 seats in the Assembly giving them a 51-29 advantage over their Republican counterparts.

This year’s top-of-the-ticket featured New Jersey’s 40 State Senate and Assembly races. As of this morning, the Democrats have successfully retained control of the New Jersey Senate. Both Democrats and Republicans managed to flip one seat each in the Senate, resulting in the Democrats maintaining their majority with a 25-15 hold over the Senate. In the New Jersey Assembly, it appears that Democrats were able to pick up 5 seats and will continue to control the Assembly by a margin of 51-29.
Due to legislative redistricting and a record number of retirements, the upcoming session in January will see an influx of new faces in the Legislature. Although there’s no statewide election on this year’s ballot, the choices made by New Jersey voters provide an early indication of the political landscape for candidates running in New Jersey’s 2025 gubernatorial election.

Key Legislative Races:

Legislative District 3:
Former Assemblyman John Burzichelli achieved a victory by unseating the incumbent Republican Senator Ed Durr in a contest for the State Senate seat. This winning momentum extended to Democratic Assembly candidates, as Heather Simmons and Dave Bailey secured wins against Republican incumbent Assemblywoman Bethanne McCarthy Patrick and Republican Assembly candidate Thomas Tedesco Jr.

In 2021, following the surprise defeat of Senate President Steven Sweeney (D-3), Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3), and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (D-3), the 3rd legislative district became a battleground for both parties. The district saw a total of over $2 million in combined campaign spending, with Democratic candidates outspending their Republican counterparts by approximately $1 million. Major issues leading up to the election included energy policy and parental rights. In the 3rd district, 36% of registered voters were unaffiliated, 35% were Democrats, and 29% were Republicans. In this year’s election, Democrats made a significant comeback in the 3rd district, successfully reclaiming the seats they had lost in the 2021 election.

Legislative District 4:
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty defeated Republican candidate Christopher Del Borrello for the State Senate seat. Along with Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, his slate of Dan Hutchison, and Cody Miller were also victorious against Republican Assembly candidates Amanda Esposito and Matthew Walker.

In March 2023, Democratic Senator Fred Madden announced his retirement after serving for 22 years, leaving an open Senate seat. This year’s election marked the first legislative election under the new redistricting map approved in 2022. The additions to the 4th legislative district included Atlantic County towns such as Buena, Buena Vista, and Franklin Township, which historically favored Republican candidates. Despite the inclusion of Republican-leaning towns, the 4th district still leans Democratic, with Democrats comprising 40% of registered voters and holding a partisan advantage of nearly 27,000. Despite the redistricting, Democrats successfully retained the legislative seats in the 4th district.

Legislative District 8:
Republican Senate candidate Latham Tiver secured a win surpassing his Democratic rival, Gaye Burton, in a contested Senate race. This momentum extended to the Republican Assembly slate, with incumbent Assemblymen Michael Torrissi and Brandon Umba clinching victories over the Democratic Assembly candidates Andrea Katz and Anthony Angelozzi.

In January 2023, Republican Senator Jean Stanfield announced she would not seek re-election. In 2021, Senator Jean Stanfield defeated Democratic Senator Dawn Addiego by only 2%. The 8th district leans Republican, and the impact of the 2022 redistricting process further solidified this tendency by incorporating the Republican-leaning towns of Mullica, Washington, and Bass River. Republicans also received a boost from redistricting due to the removal of Democratic-leaning parts of Camden County. As the Democratic election campaign progressed, in August 2023, the Democratic Party encountered an unexpected twist with Democratic Senate candidate, Heather Cooper, withdrawing from the race. In response, the county committee members deliberated and selected former Pemberton Councilwoman Gaye Burton as the new Democratic Senate candidate. Although the 8th legislative district leans Republican, unaffiliated voters account for approximately 36% of registered voters, making them the largest portion of the district’s voters.

Legislative District 11:
Incumbent Senator Vin Gopal emerged victorious against Republican candidate Stephen Dnistrian in a battle for the State Senate seat. Senator Gopal’s winning streak extended to his slate, where Margie Donlon and Luanne Peterpaul also beat incumbent Assemblywomen Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner.

The 11th legislative district was the most competitive and expensive race in the state. It was the only split district, with a Democrat in the Senate and Republicans in the Assembly. In 2021, Assemblywoman Kim Eulner and Assemblywoman Marilyn Piperno unseated the two incumbent Democratic candidates. In 2021, Senator Vin Gopal defeated his Republican challenger by 4%. The closely contested 2021 elections fueled anticipation surrounding this year’s election. The Democratic candidates outspent the Republican candidates by a factor of six to one. Voter registration favored Democrats, with 34% compared to 26%. Despite the Democrats’ financial advantage, Republicans targeted the Democratic candidates on school funding, property taxes, parental rights, whale deaths, and offshore wind. Despite Senator Vin Gopal voting against a bill providing tax incentives to Ørsted’s offshore wind project, the news of Ørsted ceasing operations in New Jersey provided Republicans with optimism heading into election day. However, this Republican momentum failed to materialize in the election results, with Senator Gopal easily winning re-election.

Legislative District 12:
Republican Senate candidate Owen Henry emerged victorious in a contest against his Democratic counterpart, Brandon Rose. The incumbent Assemblymen, Robert Clifton and Alexander Sauickie, secured victories over the Democratic Assembly candidates, Paul Sarti and Raya Arbiol.

The 12th legislative district has predominantly been a Republican stronghold since the 1980s, with Republicans making up 32% of registered voters compared to 27% registered Democrats. Senator Sam Thompson announced his retirement after switching to the Democratic Party earlier in the year, a move prompted by the Republican Party’s decision not to renominate him for re-election. In this year’s election, the Republicans successfully reclaimed the 12th legislative Senate seat with relative ease.

Legislative District 16:
Incumbent Democratic Senator Andrew Zwicker defeated former Republican Congressman Michael Pappas for the State Senate seat. The slate of incumbent Assemblyman Roy Freiman and Democratic Assembly candidate Mitchelle Drulis prevailed against Republican candidates Ross Traphagen and Grace Zhang.

The 16th legislative district has been represented by three Democrats since 2021, after Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) retired and Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16) filled the Senate seat. Senator Andrew Zwicker was challenged by former U.S. Representative Michael Pappas. In 2021, Senator Zwicker defeated former U.S. Representative Michael Pappas by 6%. In January 2023, Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer announced she would not run for re-election after just one term in the Assembly. Assembly Democratic candidate Mitchelle Drulis aimed to hold the Assembly seat for the Democrats. Key issues in the 16th legislative district included parental rights, school funding, and property taxes. As in other races in the state, the Democratic candidates had the fundraising advantage, outspending Republicans by about 75%. Registered Democrats also outnumbered registered Republicans, 36% to 26%. In this year’s election, Democrats capitalized on their fundraising advantage, successfully retaining control of all seats in the 16th district.

Legislative District 30:
Incumbent Republican Senator Robert Singer emerged victorious against the Democratic Senate candidate Stephen Dobbins. Republican incumbent Assemblyman Sean Kean secured a win against the Democratic Assembly candidate Salvatore Frascino. However, in a major upset, Democratic Assembly candidate Avi Schnall defeated incumbent Assemblyman Ned Thomson.

The 30th legislative district has been a Republican stronghold since the early 1990s. The district heavily leans Republican, with Republicans accounting for 39% of registered voters, while Democrats constitute just 19%. Republican incumbent Senator Robert Singer has held his seat for 30 years. Heading into the election, Republicans controlled all legislative seats in the 30th district. In this year’s election, even in the face of the district’s long-standing Republican dominance, Democratic Assembly candidate Avi Schnall achieved an impressive feat by securing the Assembly seat. Schnall’s victory carries immense significance, especially for Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community, who played a pivotal role in his election. Schnall also served as the former New Jersey director of Agudath Israel of America.

Legislative District 38:
Democratic Senator Joseph Lagana secured a win over Republican Senate candidate Micheline Attieh. Lagana, joined by Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully, both incumbents, continued the Democratic success as they prevailed over Republican Assembly candidates Gail Horton and Barry Wilkes.

The 38th legislative district leans Democratic, with Democrats comprising 38% of registered voters compared to 22% for Republicans, giving Democrats a nearly 24,000 partisan advantage. Democrats have held all seats in the district since 2004. Despite the Democratic advantage, Republicans campaigned strongly to flip the district and raised more money than a typical GOP candidate. Although Democrats have maintained the 38th district since 2004, in 2021, Assemblyman Chris Tully won by only 2.93%. Key issues in this race included property taxes, reproductive rights, clean energy, and parental rights. Despite the rigorous campaign efforts by the Republicans in this year’s election, Democrats managed to maintain control of both the Senate and Assembly seats in the 38th district.

With no statewide election on the ballot, voters were expected to shift their focus toward local issues. Here is a selection of the contested local races:

Cumberland County:

In Cumberland County, Republicans were able to sweep the Democrats giving the Republicans a 7-0 majority on the Board with Republicans Sandra Taylor, Arthur Marchand, and James Sauro defeating Democrats John Capizola Jr., Larae Smith, and Joseph Perella.

In 2022, Republicans in Cumberland County flipped two commissioner seats, giving the Republicans a 4-3 majority on the Board. In this year’s election, there were three Democratic seats up for reelection. In this year’s election, Republicans secured all three seats, granting them full control of the Board of Commissioners.

Gloucester County:

In Gloucester County, Democrats were able to keep their 5-2 County Commissioner majority with Democrats Jim Jefferson, Matt Weng, and Joann Gattinelli were victorious against Republicans James R. Philbin Jr., Adam Wingate, and Heather Flaim.

Republicans were seeking to win a majority of county commissioner seats for the first time in a generation. Democrats had a 5-2 majority on the Board of Commissioners going into election day. In 2021, Republicans secured victory in two county commissioner seats and aimed to bolster their presence on the Board of Commissioners in this election. However, in this year’s election, Democrats were able to sweep the races in Gloucester County.