2022 NJ Election Analysis
by Eric DeGesero (as of Wednesday November 9, 2022 – 10:30am)
“When all is said and done, more is usually said, than done.”
Results from last night’s mid-term elections are not yet fully known, once they are the Republicans may control one or both houses of Congress. However, the anticipated Red Wave did not materialize. Republicans failed to take advantage of the extremely favorable political environment. There will be questions about Republican candidate recruitment for Governor and Senate races, especially in blue states, where pick-up opportunities went unfulfilled.
Results in New Jersey played out as anticipated. This is the first election in congressional districts redrawn after the 2020 census. Below is an overview of the results in the 12 Congressional races last night in New Jersey. Neither US Senate seat was up in 2022. Senior US Senator Bob Menendez is up for re-election in 2024.
1st District (Gloucester/Camden): Incumbent Donald Norcross (D) easily defeated Claire Gustafason, a former Collingswood Board of Education member and small business owner, with 62% of the vote in a rematch of the 2020 general election. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic. Republican John Hunt lost the seat in the Watergate landslide of 1974 to former Governor Jim Florio, who was succeeded by long-time Congressman Rob Andrews (D).
2nd District (Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland/Salem/Ocean/Gloucester): Incumbent Jeff Van Drew (R) who famously switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 2019, easily defeated Tim Alexander (D) with 61% of the vote. Alexander is an attorney who is a former detective in the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office and prosecutor in the Philadelphia DA’s office.
3rd District (Burlington/Mercer/Monmouth): Prior to re-districting the 3rd was split between Ocean and Burlington Counties. Redistricting took away the ruby red Republican Ocean County half of the district and added the rest of Burlington, western Monmouth, and some Mercer towns. The 3rd is one of three districts the Democrats drew (the tie-breaker agreed to their map) to make it easier for them to hold. The expectation was that since Congressman Kim had beaten self-funding Republicans in 2018 and 2020 and without Ocean County he would cruise to re-election. His opponent was Bob Healey (R) whose family owns Viking Yacht. Healey self-funded too. In the closing days of the race this was a district that Republicans felt the Red Wave would wash over and flip. It does not appear to be the case. As of this writing results from Mercer County aren’t fully available due to countywide issues with voting machines. However, it is likely Kim will prevail as he leads by 24,000 votes (55%) and it is highly unlikely results from the Mercer County portion of the district will go for Healey.
4th District (Ocean/Monmouth): Incumbent Chris Smith (R) was first elected to Congress from central Jersey in 1980. This is the most Republican district in the state having taken part of Smith’s old district and adding it to the part of Ocean that the 3rd district lost. He is the Dean of the NJ Congressional delegation and second in seniority in the US House of Representatives. The last time he won by single digits was 1982. He was redistricted out of his old district and moved to Ocean County. He dispatched Democrats sacrificial lamb Matt Jenkins by a 2 to 1 margin.
5th District (Sussex/Passaic/Bergen): Like the 3rd District mapmakers drew a more favorable district for Democrats. The district straddles the northern border of the state. It used to go down the Delaware to Phillipsburg and looked like a boomerang. That stretch along the Delaware in Sussex and Warren Counties was moved to the 7th District and additional Bergen County towns added. The ironic thing is that incumbent Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D) didn’t need the assist – although who wouldn’t take it? In 2016 Gottheimer won the seat for Democrats and has never looked back. He is Chair of the Bi-Partisan caucus in the US House of Representatives. He is the trifecta of policy expert, prolific fundraiser, and tireless campaigner. He spends more time in red Sussex County than prior Republicans who held the seat. The Republicans nominated Frank Pallota a financial advisor, who was also the party’s 2020 candidate against Gottheimer. Gottheimer won by a nearly identical margin in 2022 (54%) as he did in 2020 (53%). Gottheimer is on every short list for higher office.
6th District (Monmouth/Middlesex): Incumbent Frank Pallone (D) has been the district’s Congressman since 1988, winning the seat at the same time George H.W. Bush won the district (Pappi Bush was last Republican to win NJ’s Presidential electors). Pallone is the Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Over the years he has faced some strong Republican candidates but always won easily. This year the Republicans nominated Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley. Kiley kept the race close in Monmouth and held Pallone to under 60% for the first time since the Tea Party wave in 2010. However, Middlesex and Pallone’s popularity were simply too much for her to overcome and Pallone won with 57%.
7th District (Union/Somerset/Hunterdon/Sussex/Morris/Warren): The marquee race in New Jersey was this one. It is a rematch of 2020 when incumbent Congressman Tom Malinowski (D) defeated former NJ Senator Tom Kean Jr. However, the district became decidedly more Republican in redistricting. This is the district Democrats traded to make Districts 3, 5, and 11 more Democratic. The race was a microcosm of many of congressional races nationally, the Republicans talking about the economy and the Democrats talking about former President Trump and abortion. As of this writing Kean is ahead by 13,000 votes with 80% reporting districtwide.
8th District (Essex/Hudson/Union): Incumbent Congressman Albio Sires (D) announced he was retiring from Congress to run for Mayor of West New York, where he served prior to being elected to the General Assembly in the mid-2000s. The Democratic Party establishment rallied around Port Authority Commissioner Rob Menendez, son of the Senator. Menendez won the primary and faced Republican Marcos Arroyo. Menendez won with 72%.
9th District (Bergen/Hudson/Passaic): Incumbent Congressman Bill Pascrell (D) has had two tough races. His initial election in 1996 when he defeated then Congressman and now US Federal District Court Judge Bill Martini by 3%. His only other tough race was in 2012, the last time there was an election in newly re-drawn districts, when he defeated Congressman Steve Rothman (D) in an incumbent on incumbent primary when their districts were combined. Pascrell defeated Republican Billy Prempeh an Air Force veteran, with 55% of the vote in a rematch of their 2020 race. Interestingly in 2020 Pascrell won with 66%, and Prempeh came within 1,200 votes of winning the Bergen (southern) County portion of the district. That wasn’t enough to counter Pascrell’s near invincibility in Passaic County.
10th District (Essex/Hudson/Union): This is one of the most Democratic districts in the nation. Donald Payne Sr. represented it from 1988 until his death in 2012. He was the first black congressman from NJ. Upon his death the seat was won by his son Donald Payne, Jr. (D). The Republicans nominated David Pickney. Payne won with 77% of the vote.
11th District (Morris/Essex/Passaic): This is the third of three districts made more Democratic by mapmakers when they removed ruby red Republican Sussex County and gave it to the 7th and pushed the 11th eastward further into Essex. In another abortion v inflation race incumbent Mikie Sherrill (D) defeated Republican Paul De Groot a former Chief Prosecutor in the Passaic County Prosecutor’s office, with 58% of the vote. This is her largest margin of victory since she was first elected in 2018. Sherrill is seen as a potential 2025 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate.
12th District (Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset/Union): Incumbent Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) appears to have easily defeated republican Darius Mayfield. This race is impacted by the same voting machine issue that the 3rd district is. However, there is nothing remotely completive about this race.
County Commissioners: Republicans had hoped to take control of the Gloucester County Board of Commissioners but failed to do so. They also failed to make gains at the county level in Bergen, Passaic, Somerset, and Burlington Counties. They did however take unanimous control of the Board of Commissioners in Salem County and won control in Cumberland County.
Next year’s NJ legislative mid-term election, when all 120 seats in the state legislature will be on the ballot, is only 51 weeks away.