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 HoyerOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Md.), while Harrison has the backing of Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads 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 John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test 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 MacArthurRepublican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey 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) GottheimerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention New Jersey Rep. Gottheimer wins House primary New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries MORE (D-N.J.) and Albio SiresAlbio B. SiresWe can't lose sight of Ortega's abuses in Nicaragua Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell wins Democratic primary 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 PascrellLawmakers urge administration to remove tariffs on European wine and spirits amid coronavirus pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell wins Democratic primary MORE (D) in the 9th District, Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman wins Democratic primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Primary Day in New Jersey 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-CortezHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Harris, Ocasio-Cortez push climate equity bill with Green New Deal roots Young minority voters show overwhelming support for Biden: poll MORE’s (D-N.Y.) campaign, hit back at Sires for running for office as a Republican in the 1980s.