Voters guide: 2017 New Jersey primary election

New Jersey’s 2017 primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 6. Here’s what you need to know about the races, candidates and getting to the polls.

RESOURCES AND INFORMATION

Voters must be registered with a party to vote on primary day. In New Jersey, unaffiliated voters can declare Republican or Democrat on election day and vote in that party’s primary.

THE RACES

GOVERNOR

The gubernatorial race is at the top of the ballot in New Jersey. New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states with statewide elections this year, so the races are being closely watched nationally as barometers of the impact of the Trump presidency and the strength of an anti-establishment wave. The candidates are seeking to succeed two-term Gov. Chris Christie, who concludes his tenure deeply unpopular in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal, his ties to President Trump and his own presidential campaign.

A crowded field is vying to replace Christie. Four Democrats and two Republicans have polled highly enough to be invited to their party’s primary debates. Read more here about the candidates and how they compare on the issues.

The leading Democratic candidates are:

Jim Johnson

  • Age: 56
  • County: Essex
  • Johnson, who was an assistant treasury secretary under President Clinton and a former federal prosecutor, was a political unknown before entering the race and has made ethics reform a centerpiece of his campaign.
  • Campaign website

Ray Lesniak

  • Age: 71
  • County: Union
  • Lesniak, a state senator since 1983, has highlighted environmental and animal issues in his campaign. He previously served in U.S. Army, worked as a lawyer and was a member of the General Assembly from 1978 to 1983.
  • Campaign website

Phil Murphy

  • Age: 59
  • County: Monmouth
  • Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany, has the backing of the state Democratic establishment as well as support from constituencies like labor and environmental groups and is considered the front-runner in the race. He wants to create a public bank for the state.
  • Campaign website

John Wisniewski

  • Age: 54
  • County: Middlesex
  • Wisniewski has served in the General Assembly for 20 years and helped expose the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal. He was the New Jersey director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and has pushed for progressive policies on health care, college tuition and other issues.
  • Campaign website

Two other Democrats have entered the race but did not garner enough support for debate invitations. They are Mark Zinna, a councilman in Tenafly, and Bill Brennan, a political activist and former firefighter who filed a citizen’s complaint against Christie, alleging official misconduct in the Bridgegate scheme.

Read more about the Democratic primary:

The two leading Republican candidates invited to debates are:

Jack Ciattarelli

  • Age: 55
  • County: Somerset
  • Ciattarelli, a state assemblyman since 2011, has said he would prioritize changing the state’s school-funding formula. The former freeholder and businessman has emphasized his distance from the Christie administration.
  • Campaign website

Kim Guadagno

  • Age: 58
  • County: Monmouth
  • Guadagno has served as Gov. Christie’s lieutenant governor for the past eight years. Her campaign has sought to both tout her achievements in office and stress her differences with the unpopular governor. She is a former prosecutor and Monmouth County sheriff.
  • Campaign website

Three other GOP candidates are on the ballot but did not poll highly enough to get debate invitations. They are businessman Joseph Rudy Rullo, Nutley Township Commissioner Steve Rogers, and Hirsh Singh, an executive and engineer in the aerospace and defense industry.

Read more about the GOP primary:

The two primary winners will go on to face each other in the November general election.

Read more about the race for governor:

The New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff photographer)

STATE SENATE

All 40 seats in New Jersey’s State Senate are up for election. There are eight contested primaries this year, three on the Democratic side and five among Republicans.

The only locally contested State Senate race is GOP battle in the 12th District, covering parts of Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Incumbent Samuel Thompson faces a challenge from Art Haney.

The other contested primaries on the Democratic side are in the 13th (Monmouth County), 17th (Middlesex and Somerset Counties) and 25th (Bergen and Passaic Counties) Districts. The other contested Republican primaries are in the 14th (Mercer and Middlesex Counties), 24th (Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties), 37th (Bergen County) and 40th (Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic Counties) Districts.

In South Jersey, the candidates running unopposed in their primaries, who will face each other in the November general election, are:

  • 3rd District (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties): State Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D), Fran Grenier (R)
  • 4th District (Camden and Gloucester Counties): State Sen. Fred Madden (D), Michael Pascetta (R)
  • 5th District (Camden and Gloucester Counties): State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D), Keith Walker (R)
  • 6th District (Burlington and Camden Counties): State Sen. James Beach (D), Robert Shapiro (R)
  • 7th District (Burlington County): Troy Singleton (D), Rob Prisco (R)
  • 8th District (Atlantic, Burlington and Camden Counties): George Youngkin (D), State Sen. Dawn Addiego (R)
  • 9th District (Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean Counties): Brian Corley White (D), State Sen. Christopher Connors (R)
The New Jersey State Senate (AP photo)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Voters will also choose their party’s nominees in the General Assembly, where all 80 seats – two in each of the 40 legislative districts – are on the ballot. Overall, there are 17 contested General Assembly races, 11 in Democratic primaries and six on the Republican side.

Locally contested primaries for the General Assembly are:

  • 3rd District, Democrat (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties): John Kalnas is challenging Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro in the Democratic primary. Philip Donohue and Linwood Donelson will both advance from the Republican primary.
  • 6th District, Democrat (Burlington and Camden Counties): Democratic incumbents Louis Greenwald and Pamela Lampitt face a primary challenge from Fredrick Dande. Winston Extavour and David Moy are the only two GOP candidates.
  • 7th District, Democrat (Burlington County): Assemblyman Herbert Conaway, Jr, Jennifer Hiniu Chuang and Carol Murphy are vying for two nominations in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Octavia Scott and Mike Piper will both advance.
  • 12th District, Republican (Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties): A crowded field is seeking the two nominations in the Republican primary: John Sheard, Alex Robotin and Eleanor Walker are taking on Assemblymen Ronald Dancer and Robert Clifton. Gene Davis and Nirav Patel are the Democratic candidates.

The other contested Democratic primaries are in the 2nd (Atlantic County), 11th (Monmouth County), 15th (Hunterdon and Mercer Counties), 17th (Middlesex and Somerset Counties), (Middlesex, Somerset and Union Counties), 24th (Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties), 26th (Essex, Morris and Passaic Counties) and 31st (Hudson County) Districts.

Other contested GOP primaries are in the 1st (Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland Counties), 24th (Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties), 26th (Essex, Morris and Passaic Counties), 37th (Bergen County) and 40th (Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic Counties) Districts.

Voters in New Jersey will head to the polls for the 2017 primary election on June 6, 2017. (ED HILLE / Staff photographer)

The South Jersey candidates who are uncontested in their primaries and will go on to the general election are:

  • 4th District (Camden and Gloucester Counties): Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D), Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D), Patricia Jefferson Kline (R), Eduardo Maldonado (R)
  • 5th District (Camden and Gloucester Counties): Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones (D), Assemblyman Arthur Barclay (D), Kevin Ehret (R), Teresa Gordon (R)
  • 8th District (Atlantic, Burlington and Camden Counties): Joanne Schwartz (D), MaryAnn Merlino (D), Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R), Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg (R)
  • 9th District (Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean Counties): Jill Dobrowansky (D), Ryan Young (D), Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R), Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove (R)

Read more about the legislative races:

LOCAL

A variety of county and municipal races are also on the ballot. Voters will make their primary choices for positions that include county freeholders, mayors, city councils and township committees. Many primary races are uncontested and dominated by incumbents, but challengers have emerged in a handful of contests.

Sample ballots and full lists of races and candidates for South Jersey counties are available here:  

In Camden, Mayor Dana Redd is not seeking a third term. Council President Francisco “Frank” Moran is the heavy favorite in the Democratic primary and seen as Redd’s hand-picked successor. He faces primary challenges, however, from Raymond Lamboy, the chief executive of the Latin American Economic Development Association, and Theo Spencer, a businessman and former Board of Education member. No one filed to run as a Republican, leaving the Democratic winner poised for victory in November.

Portraits of former Camden Mayors on the second floor of Camden’s City Hall. (CHARLES FOX / Staff photographer)

In Atlantic City, Republican Mayor Don Guardian wants to keep his job. In November, he will face one of the four Democrats running in that party’s crowded primary: City Council President President Marty Small Sr., City Councilman Frank Gilliam, Navy veteran Jimmy Whitehead and substitute teacher Fareed Abdullah. Running as an independent is former Postcard Show host Joseph Polillo.

And in a handful of smaller South Jersey communities, party regulars and incumbents face challenges from newcomers. Read more about local races:

ENDORSEMENTS

These are the candidates the Inquirer recommends:

Governor (Democrat): Phil Murphy
“He understands the issues, has a wealth of executive experience, and offers practical solutions to problems that should never have been allowed to fester this long.”

Governor (Republican): Jack Ciattarelli
“An assemblyman since 2011, the former Somerset County freeholder and Raritan Borough councilman has learned the nuances of bipartisan compromise. As a certified public accountant, Ciattarelli understands the math behind the state’s biggest problem: its finances.”

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