New Jersey Republicans added to the GOP's positive election results across the country, picking up at least four seats in the Assembly and netting one new seat in the Senate, according to Associated Press race calls made Thursday in the Nov. 2 election.
The Associated Press declared winners in a handful of races, cementing what will be a GOP pickup of at least four seats in the lower chamber of the Legislature. Two Assembly seats remain uncalled, with the Republican candidates holding narrow leads. Democrats will remain in control of the chamber, but with a majority diminished from 52-28.
Republicans netted only one new seat in the Senate, despite winning two because Democrats won a GOP-held seat. The slight movement in the Senate hardly tempered the sting for Democrats, though, whose Senate president, Steve Sweeney, was among those defeated. In the Senate, Democrats will keep control as well, but their majority will fall from 25-15 to 24-16.
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New Jersey counties have continued to count their ballots since election night, including provisional ballots, results from some precincts that had not yet reported their results, and mail ballots. Ballots cast by mail could be counted as long as they arrived by Nov. 8, if postmarked by the day of the election.
Republicans and some Democrats are viewing the GOP pickups as a repudiation of the governor's left-leaning policies as well as frustration over delays in the payment of jobless benefits and complaints about lines at Motor Vehicles.
“People are frustrated with labor shortages and a state government that can’t deliver basic services like getting an unemployment check or scheduling an appointment with the MVC, despite paying nation-high taxes," said incoming Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio.
He added: "If Democrats didn’t get the message … Republicans will personally deliver it every step of the way.”
Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who was Sweeney's running mate in their suburban Philadelphia southern New Jersey district, said he could see the lack of enthusiasm in Democratic voters' eyes while he was campaigning. He laid the defeat at the lack of local news coverage and the nationalization of state and local politics, which he said meant that people were focused on President Joe Biden, whose approval ratings have been dropping.
“There was a mood of indifference,” he said. "I almost don't feel people voted against us or for the other side. We ended up running against something we couldn't see or touch, which is this underlying current or mood.
“This was clearly an emotional vote influenced by the news out of Washington because there’s no local news.”
In the Assembly, Republicans picked up seats in the 2nd and 3rd districts in the southern part of the state. In the 11th District in Monmouth County, GOP candidates led narrowly.
Joining the Assembly when the new session begins in January will be former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and his running mate attorney Claire Swift in the Atlantic County-based 2nd District.
In the 3rd District, Republicans Beth Sawyer, a real estate broker, and firefighter/EMT Bethanne McArthy Patrick will head to the Assembly.
In the 11th District, nutrition and fitness professional Marilyn Piperno and Shrewsbury Borough Councilwoman Kimberly Eulner had narrow leads over incumbent Democratic Assembly members Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling.
In the Senate, Republican Edward Durr ousted Sweeney and Republican Assembly member Jean Stanfield defeated Democratic incumbent Dawn Addiego. Addiego made headlines in 2019 when she left the GOP to join Democrats.
Stanfield said in an phone interview that voters told her they were angry over Democratic spending programs.
“I think people are just fed up and disgusted with what they see in Trenton and what they see at the national level,” she said.
Democratic Assembly member Andrew Zwicker won his state Senate contest in the 16th District over former Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Pappas. Republicans had held the seat, but incumbent Christopher “Kip” Bateman retired, giving Democrats an opening.