With Donald Trump unopposed on the Republican side, New Jersey Democrats will cast some of the season's last votes on a contested presidential nomination on June 7. As the Editorial Board detailed before the Pennsylvania primary, despite the enthusiasm generated by Bernie Sanders, HILLARY CLINTON is better prepared for the office.
South Jersey Democrats will also decide three congressional nominations. The most heated contest is in the Camden County-based First District, whose freshman congressman, Donald Norcross, likes to say he's just an electrician in a tie.
But Norcross harnesses a lot more power than the average working man. The son of a labor leader and brother of South Jersey's top Democratic power broker, Norcross headed the regional AFL-CIO before his path to political office was cleared by the precisely timed midterm retirement of the state Assembly speaker himself. The party organization immediately anointed Norcross the prohibitive front-runner in a safely Democratic district. A week after he was sworn in to the Assembly, he was promoted to a vacated state Senate seat. Four years after that, yet another midterm exit - by U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews amid a campaign-finance probe - put Norcross on a short circuit to Congress, powered once again by party unanimity.
The spectacle of Andrews being confronted on 60 Minutes helped spark Alex Law's interest in politics and ultimately his challenge to the machine that choreographed Norcross' rise. Law, of Voorhees, is the epitome of an upstart, having just turned 25, the minimum age to serve in the House, and quit his IBM consulting job to seek the nomination. He has raised about $40,000 to Norcross' nearly $1 million. (The winner will run against Bob Patterson, who is unopposed on the GOP side.)
While Norcross, 57, was often in the thick of the legislative action in Trenton, his meteoric ascent hasn't helped his resumé in that respect; his achievements in Washington have been limited. The congressman notes that he introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage and has helped bring federal funds to the district.
Law, a Sanders supporter, has staked out positions largely to the left of the congressman, who sometimes sides with Republicans in favor of industry and defense. The challenger has criticized Norcross' votes against the Iran nuclear deal, consumer financial protections, and refugee resettlement. Norcross says he takes pride in sometimes straying from the party line.
Law's most persuasive critique of Norcross concerns his reliance on donors with government contracts. Pay-to-play politics have been elevated to a dark art in South Jersey, but Norcross addresses the issue by insisting he is just an electrician-turned-politician with no special connection to such machinations.
Democratic voters longing for a genuine departure from the entrenched political establishment that Norcross embodies should choose ALEX LAW.
In New Jersey's Third District, which stretches from the Ocean County beaches to Burlington County's Philadelphia suburbs, Democrats will choose between two candidates vying to face freshman Republican Rep. Tom McArthur in November. Frederick John LaVergne, a Delanco loan officer, lost independent bids for the seat in 2014 and 2012. Democrats may be more successful with JIM KEADY, a Spring Lake tavern owner who is passionate about helping Hurricane Sandy victims, some of whom still can't return to their storm-damaged homes four years later.
Gov. Christie may remember Keady as the guy he told to "Sit down and shut up" after he showed up at a Belmar event in 2014 to protest the slow pace of Sandy aid. Keady says he would make Sandy recovery a higher priority and work to protect beaches, wetlands, farmland, and the Pinelands.
Two Democrats are also competing to face Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo in the Second District, which spans eight counties on the state's southern end. DAVE COLE, a Sewell software engineer calling for more infrastructure investment, would present more of a challenge to the veteran congressman than his opponent, Vineland security worker and socialist activist Tino Rozzo.