What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday

What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday

New Jersey voters are set to take part in the Garden State’s primaries on Tuesday, in what will be a majority vote-by-mail election amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A number of races will be watched closely, including the Democratic primary to take on Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Jefferson Van Drew in the 2nd District and the GOP race to determine a candidate to go up against Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) in the neighboring 3rd District.

Complete result will likely not be out by Tuesday, with mailed-in ballots due to be accepted until next week.


Here are the things to watch on the Garden State primaries.

Democrats in heated contest to challenge Van Drew 

Brigid Callahan Harrison and Amy Kennedy will compete with three other Democrats for the chance to take on Van Drew in November after he announced his decision to switch parties late last year.

Harrison, a professor at Montclair State University, and Kennedy, a mental health advocate, are seen as the front-runners in the race. The battle between the two candidates has divided Garden State Democrats. 

Kennedy, the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), has the backing of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBiden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' House passes political spending, climate change corporate disclosures bill House to vote Wednesday on making Juneteenth a federal holiday MORE (D-Md.), while Harrison has the backing of Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerCongress must act to correct flaws in the First Step Act Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers MORE (D-N.J.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer says Senate will vote on repealing 2002 war authorization The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale MORE (D-N.J.), along with state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and New Jersey political power broker George Norcross.

Polling in the race has been rare, but the fundraising battle has ramped up over the course of the campaign. Harrison has raked in $415,000 for her campaign, contributing $160,000 of her own money to the sum. Kennedy raised $1.4 million and self-funded $500,000 of it. Both candidates have received support from outside groups.


Harrison and Kennedy will also face off against progressive activist Will Cunningham, environmental activist John Francis III and retired FBI agent Robert Turkavage.

Van Drew became a prime target for Democrats last year when he became a Republican after announcing his decision to oppose impeaching President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE. The first-term lawmaker also faces a primary challenge against Republican challenger Bob Patterson, but Van Drew is expected to win. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the district as “leans Republican.” 

Republicans battle it out to oust Kim

In the 3rd District, the Republican battle to face off against Kim has escalated. David Richter, former CEO of construction management firm Hill International, is competing against Kate Gibbs, a former union official.

The race has devolved into a series of personal attacks, including Richter comparing Gibbs’s past charges of shoplifting and drug possession to “Jersey Shore” personality Snooki. Gibbs slammed Richter in last month’s debate as “an entitled rich guy” who is “desperate to get a title.” However, both candidates have policy stances that largely mirror President Trump’s. 

The winner of the contest will face a heated battle against Kim in the district, which is rated as a "toss-up" by Cook Political Report. Kim unseated GOP incumbent Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Republican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday MORE in 2018 in a district that Trump won in 2016 by 6 points. Kim has $3.2 million cash on hand. 

Mailed-in ballots again in focus

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ordered that the election take place primarily though vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic, a step many other states have adopted this year. 

Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to postmark their ballots or hand deliver them to county boards of elections in House, Senate and presidential contests. However, each county must keep a certain number of polling stations open for voters who wish to vote in person. 

The primaries will be a test for election officials after 20 percent of ballots in May municipal elections were rejected due to suspected tampering in Paterson, N.J. The incident led to charges against four individuals. 

The reliance on mailed-in ballots will likely delay results. New York, which also relied on mailed-in ballots, has yet to report results for key races two weeks after it held its primary.

Sires, Gottheimer look to fend off progressive challengers

Incumbent Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan MORE (D-N.J.) and Albio SiresAlbio B. SiresCountering China's influence in the Caribbean with a second Caribbean Basin Initiative We can't lose sight of Ortega's abuses in Nicaragua Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs MORE (D-N.J.) are facing progressive challengers. Gottheimer will compete against Arati Kreibich in the state’s 5th District, while Sires will face Hector Oseguera in the 8th District. 

A number of other incumbents including Reps. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellZombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE (D) in the 9th District, Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanTSA working on additional pipeline security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack President Biden can prevent over 4,000 people from being sent back to prison Lawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats MORE (D) in the 12th District, and Frank Pallone Jr. (D) in the 6th District are also facing progressive challengers. 

While the incumbents are expected to fare well in their races, one race to watch is Sires. The eight-term congressman has gone negative in campaigning against Oseguera, which is unusual for a well-established incumbent. 

“Hector Oseguera calls himself a progressive, but the truth is he’s a fraud,” Sires said in a recently released campaign press release, hitting Oseguera for accepting money from a donor to a pro-Trump PAC. 

Oseguera, who previously volunteered for progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: The center strikes back Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Harris rebounds after difficult trip MORE’s (D-N.Y.) campaign, hit back at Sires for running for office as a Republican in the 1980s.