LD11 winners Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling pulled out an unlikely win on Tuesday for Democrats in the previously Republican-held district, unseating incumbents Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande. But, while the win was a significant one in terms of securing Democratic control in the legislature, Downey and Houghtaling may soon find themselves at the center of a tug of war between North and South Jersey.
Downey and Houghtaling had officials from both the North and South of the state rooting for their victory leading up to the general election. Assembly Speaker Vinny Prieto and likely 2017 gubernatorial candidate Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop were both significant financial contributors to the campaign. The South Jersey centric General Majority PAC—which has Norcross ties—also heavily contributed to the campaign. The PAC financed the ad in LD11 that attacked Mary Pat Angelini as she attempted to keep her seat in the district.
While groups from both parts of the state supported the candidates, Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal said that contributions from both were primarily about ousting the Republican leadership rather than solidifying allegiances.
“I think we are in a very good spot in Monmouth County,” Gopal said. “We are in Central Jersey. We are not in North Jersey, we are not in South Jersey. We are going to agree with southern legislatures on specific issues, there are going to be issues where we agree with the northern legislatures. Our goal is to work with everybody and hope that we have a united party and elect a democratic governor in two years.”
According to Gopal, Downey and Houghtaling will “stay with the county” when making important voting decisions and when deciding which candidate to eventually support in the 2017 gubernatorial run.
“The county, together, at the time will decide,” said Gopal of the 2017 gubernatorial race. “We have a great relationship with all of the major potential candidates running. They have all been supportive and they have all been helpful. [Former Ambassador] Phil Murphy lives in Monmouth County, Steve Sweeney has been very supportive, Fulop has been very supportive. I don’t think anything is going to change.”
Gopal said that the LD11 win was a matter of the candidates being in the right place when the incumbents were faltering and “making sure the financial resources were there.” In addition to support from the General Majority PAC and other elected officials, the LD11 candidates also had significant financial contributions from labor groups.