Democrats swept nearly every competitive legislative race Tuesday, but they could not stop Chris Brown in the 2nd district.
Brown, a Republican state assemblyman, won the Senate seat in the 2nd legislative district by beating Sen. Colin Bell (D-Atlantic) in one of the state’s most hotly contested races this year. Brown had 54 percent of the vote while Bell received 46 percent, according to the Associated Press.
The Senate seat has been in Democratic hands since 2008. Bell was appointed to the seat in October after Sen. Jim Whelan died in August. (Whelan had announced his retirement earlier in the year.)
Brown, 53, has served in the state Assembly since 2012. A lawyer by trade, Brown was a municipal court judge in Galloway Township before jumping into his first Assembly race in 2011. He served overseas in the Army during the Persian Gulf War and was awarded the Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman Badge. He lives in Ventnor.
Brown portrayed himself as an independent voice, unbeholden to the political bosses of either party. He campaigned on his record opposing North Jersey casinos and a state takeover of the city’s finances.
The perennially competitive district, which includes Atlantic City, has attracted $4.6 million in total spending this year, making it one of the most expensive races this year.
Bell, 36, is a former assistant Atlantic County prosecutor and freeholder. He previously ran against Brown for Assembly in 2015 but lost by 2 points.
Despite Brown’s victory, Democrats retained both Assembly seats. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) hung onto his seat and his running mate, John Armato, won the other. Armato is a Buena Vista Township committeeman and U.S. Air Force veteran. Mazzeo had 28 percent of the vote and Armato had 26 percent. They beat Republicans Vince Sera and Brenda Taube.