South Jersey Democrat ousts incumbent in first district

 Democratic Assemblyman-elect Bruce Land (right) celebrates his victory over one-term incumbent Sam Fiocchi in New Jersey's 1st District. He is joined by incumbent Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak (left) and state Sen. Jeff Van Drew. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Democratic Assemblyman-elect Bruce Land (right) celebrates his victory over one-term incumbent Sam Fiocchi in New Jersey's 1st District. He is joined by incumbent Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak (left) and state Sen. Jeff Van Drew. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Two of New Jersey’s most competitive races for state Assembly took place in South Jersey yesterday, but only one proved to have any effect on the roster in Trenton.

In the state’s rural 1st district, Democrat Bruce Land defeated one-term Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, a businessman and former Cumberland County freeholder.

“To be able to have somebody in the Legislature that I can work with, [who] is a teammate,” said incumbent Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, who won re-election. “Being able to get a lot more accomplished for the district means a lot to me.”

Paired with state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, the 1st district, which covers parts of Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties, is now made up entirely of Democrats.

Andrzejczak said he and his running mate, Land, had no political experience before joining the state Assembly — and that’s an asset.

“Genuinely we are two average people who are fortunate enough to be able to represent the people in our district,” said Andrzejczak.

“The struggles that the normal person goes through every day are the same struggles we go through every day.”

Land’s victory means that Democrats, who already had a healthy majority in the state Assembly, will pick up another seat.

In the neighboring 2nd district, which includes Atlantic City, incumbents Republican Chris Brown and Democrat Vince Mazzeo won re-election by slim margins.

Both races were marked by an influx of spending by outside groups, namely a Washington, D.C.-based super PAC called General Majority that spent millions on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Recent analysis from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission showed that while $20 million was spent on state Assembly races this year, about $8.4 million were independent expenditures.  General Majority spent nearly $4 million.

In other words, independent groups paid out 42 percent of the total money spent on Assembly races this year, the highest portion ever for a statewide election.

“I kind of felt bad for my opponents with some of this stuff that was coming out,” said Democrat Land of the attack ads released against Republicans in the 1st district.

“There must be some validity in some of [the ads] or they wouldn’t keep pounding on it, but it did start to get tiresome, even for us.”

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