The Stakes for South Jersey, 2015: a Primer on This Cycle’s Competitive Districts

Mazzeo and Andrzejczak

Economic development leads in the issues for contests below the Raritan

LD1

Assembly Race:

Incumbent Republican Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi will be running alongside Cumberland County Freeholder Jim Sauro against his Democratic counterpart Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak and candidate Bruce Land.

Key Dynamics:

Fiocchi and Sauro are both respected businessmen with deep personal, professional and financial ties to the district’s business community, something that may resonate with voters as cities try to entice new business into Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic Counties. Andrzejczak and Land are both decorated veterans, something that could draw in splinter votes in an area dense with former servicemen and women. Both sides are emphasizing plans to spur economic activity in the district by introducing new oyster farms, and the contest could boil down to who voters see as the best men for the job. Sauro and Fiocchi could have problems running on a platform demanding cuts to public spending due to their party connection to Governor Christie, who has suffered in the polls as lawsuits pile up demanding that he stop using tax dollars for his presidential campaign’s security detail.

Who Has the Most to Gain:

Andrzejczak and Land are running under the auspices of Senator Jeff Van Drew, who has been encouraged to run for Congress by the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A defeat in the district could be a blow to any potential congressional bid for Van Drew.

LD2

Assembly Race:

Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown will be running with Atlantic County Freeholder Will Pauls against Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and Atlantic County Freeholder Colin Bell.

Key Dynamics:

The race in the second district has been consumed with discussion of Atlantic City’s faltering gaming industry. With the district already suffering from out-of-state competition from casinos in New York and Pennsylvania, both sides have latched onto the proposed referendum expanding gaming into North Jersey as a hot-button issue and voiced their opposition. One source described the campaign so far as “a contest to see who can stand at the podium and say they love their kids the most,” with the two campaigns each accusing the other of doing too little to prevent the referendum. Each side has solid labor ties, with Mazzeo carrying both the AFL-CIO and NJEA endorsements and Will Pauls being business manager of Ironworkers Local 350.

Who Has the Most to Gain:

A win for Mazzeo and Bell would be a continuation of the inroads Democrats have made in the historically Republican district. A win for Brown and Pauls would strengthen the opposition to Senator Jim Whelan’s PILOT bill, which has already been opposed by county Republican governors and is arguably to city’s only viable proposal to date for stabilizing tax revenue in the face of bankruptcy.

Burlington County

Freeholder Race:

Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard will be running with Freeholder Joanne Schwartz to keep her seat on the board against Republican candidates Kate Gibbs and Ryan Peters. County Republicans currently hold a 3-2 majority.

Key Dynamics:

With 2015 slated to be a record-low year for voter turnout, Belgard will have to overcome an early 10 to 15,000-vote handicap by generating interest in the race. Democrats have been at the same disadvantage in previous years with no national or gubernatorial candidates. The determining factors for the Democratic ticket may be whether state Democrats will get involved in fundraising for the freeholder race (as Jersey City Mayor Steven Flop did in 2014) and whether large-scale PACs will see fit to throw their weight behind Belgard in a crucial district for 2016. Senator Sweeney told PolitickerNJ that he would throw his hat into the ring for Belgard if approached by her campaign.

Who Has the Most to Gain:

If Belgard intends to run for the House against Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur again in 2016, this race will be a must-win. A loss for the Democrats would mean a 5-0 majority on the board for county Republicans, and leave state Democrats on the defensive going into the Senate elections.

Brick Township

City Council Race:

Four seats are up for grabs on the Brick Township Council, all Republicans. The candidates as of now are as follows:

Frank Pannucci Jr. (R)

Michael R. Conti (R)

Charles D. Bacon (R)

Andrea Zapcic (D)

Lisa Crate (D)

James T. Fozman (D)

Arthur Halloran (D)

Key Dynamics:

The Brick Township race saw a major upset when former Republican Councilman Daniel Toth was arrested earlier this month for criminal sexual contact and child endangerment. Toth allegedly made physical advances on a fifteen year-old, and withdrew from the race shortly after his arrest. A source close to the council said that a vote on a replacement will most likely take place before the end of the month. Apart from the scandal its effect on the Republican ticket, the city’s finances will most likely be foremost in voters minds. Brick Township Democrats have a better record on that score, having reduced the township’s debts by $6 million during the time since they carried 2013’s election and gained full control of the council.

Who Has the Most to Gain:

In and of itself, Toth’s downfall means the loss of a candidate that many saw as a rising star in the party and a blemish on the GOP’s press coverage in New Jersey in the run-up to the election. The Democrats stand to keep control of a city whose good fortune in the recovery since 2008’s recession could yield further bragging rights down the line.

The Stakes for South Jersey, 2015: a Primer on This Cycle’s Competitive Districts