Incumbents win in N.J. Congressional primary races

Incumbents seeking to return to Congress were able to cruise to the general election in November.

(From left) Rep. Donald Norcross, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, and Rep. Andy Kim. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP, Mel Evans/AP Photo, and Erin Scott/Pool via AP)

(From left) Rep. Donald Norcross, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, and Rep. Andy Kim. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP, Mel Evans/AP Photo, and Erin Scott/Pool via AP)

New Jersey’s primary election yielded no surprises, including low turnout. Most of the action, limited as it was, involved congressional districts in North Jersey.

In South Jersey, all three incumbents faced challengers, though they prevailed as expected.

Democratic incumbent Donald Norcross held off his progressive challenger Mario DeSantis, a teacher. On the Republican side, Claire Gustafson – a businesswoman and former Collingswood School Board member – will go on to face Norcross in the general election for the 1st Congressional District, which covers all of Camden County, half of Gloucester County, and a couple of small pockets in Burlington County.

It will be a rematch for Gustafson, who challenged him in 2020.

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The 2nd Congressional District covers all of Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties, plus parts of Ocean County and the other half of Gloucester County.

Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew, who received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement before the end of last year, has topped two other challengers. John Barker, a veteran from the Jersey Shore who owned two small businesses, according to his bio, and Sean Pignatelli, a Cumberland County resident who works for a Carpenter’s Union.

Van Drew’s Democratic challenger will be Tim Alexander. He’s a former detective with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office who also served as a prosecutor for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.

In the 3rd Congressional District, which covers all of Burlington County, plus parts of Mercer and Monmouth counties, the most recognizable name on the Republican ballot is Ian Smith, the gym owner who ignored COVID restrictions imposed by Gov. Phil Murphy two years ago at the cost of his business license with the Borough of Bellmawr and thousands of dollars in fines with the state.

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Smith was lost a three-way GOP race to Burlington County business owner Bob Healey. While Smith was a distant second, Mercer County realtor Nicholas Ferrara was a very distant third.

Healy, who was backed by the party, will go on to face Democratic incumbent Andy Kim, who beat back a challenge from Reuven Hendler, a project manager at a civil engineering firm who also owns a small business.

Another Smith, Republican incumbent Chris Smith, seeking his 22nd term, emerged victorious in a four-way contest in the 4th Congressional District. His closest competitor was conservative podcaster Mike Crispi, who enlisted the services of Trump advisor Roger Stone for his campaign.

Chris Smith will face Democratic businessman Matt Jenkins.

Among the contests that were set before the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday was the 12th Congressional District, which covers parts of Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties. Democratic incumbent Bonnie Watson Coleman will be challenged by Republican Darius Mayfield, a businessman.

Up North

The other contest that was set before polls closed is in the 9th District, which covers parts of Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties. Democratic incumbent Bill Pascrell will face Republican Bill Prempeh, an Air Force veteran who challenged Pascrell in 2020.

Democratic incumbent Josh Gottheimer was still waiting for his Republican opponent in the 5th District. As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the numbers indicated that it will be Frank Pallotta, a former investment banker who is aiming for a rematch. Pallotta is in a tight race with Nick De Gregorio, a Marine Corps veteran. The 5th covers parts of Bergen, Passaic and Sussex counties.

Another unchallenged Democratic incumbent is Frank Pallone in the 6th District. He will face Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley who bested a field of three in the Republican primary, which includes Rik Mehta who was the party’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2020. The 6th covers parts of Middlesex and Monmouth counties.

In the 7th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski held off a challenge from perennial candidate Roger Bacon, who was knocked out of the gubernatorial primary last year due to an issue with petition signatures. The 7th covers Hunterdon and Warren counties along with parts of Morris, Somerset, Sussex and Union counties.

Malinowski will face former state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., who won the Republican primary. Kean, the son of the former governor who has a very recognizable name in New Jersey, was able to hold off two other candidates who embraced former President Trump’s “America First” brand, including Phil Rizzo, who ran for governor last year.

Another Menendez was making an impact in the 8th District. Rob Menendez, the son of New Jersey’s senior senator, defeated two other challengers. He will face off against Republican Marcos Arroyo, a housing inspector from West New York, who was unchallenged. The 8th, which covers parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties, is an open seat due to Democratic incumbent Albio Sires not seeking re-election.

In the 10th Congressional District, covering parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties, Democratic incumbent Donald Payne kept two challengers at bay. His Republican challenger will be David Pinckney, who has run for Congress and State Assembly for the last decade.

Democratic incumbent Mikie Sherrill’s Republican challenger in the 11th District will likely be Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, who was in a tight race with Paul DeGroot, as of 11 p.m. DeGroot spent 25 years in the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. The 11th covers parts of Essex, Morris and Passaic counties.

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