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 HoyerHouse Democrats introduce bill providing citizenship to Dreamers On The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief MORE (D-Md.), while Harrison has the backing of Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent NJ lawmakers ask Gannett to stop 'union-busting' efforts at 3 state newspapers Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-N.J.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration 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 TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' 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) GottheimerNJ lawmakers ask Gannett to stop 'union-busting' efforts at 3 state newspapers Bipartisan lawmakers call for immediate vote on COVID-19 vaccine distribution package Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security 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 PascrellNJ lawmakers ask Gannett to stop 'union-busting' efforts at 3 state newspapers Biden cautious in making Trump tax returns decision Democrats hesitant to raise taxes amid pandemic MORE (D) in the 9th District, Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanNAACP, Rep. Bennie Thompson sue Trump, Giuliani over Capitol riot Fallen Capitol Police officer to lie in honor in Rotunda Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty 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-CortezProgressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J vax rollout today; third woman accuses Cuomo MORE’s (D-N.Y.) campaign, hit back at Sires for running for office as a Republican in the 1980s.