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 HoyerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Hoyer on Trump election challenges: 'I think this borders on treason' Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (D-Md.), while Harrison has the backing of Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency 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 adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden 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) GottheimerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Democrat Gottheimer wins reelection in New Jersey Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats 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 PascrellPress: Trump's biggest fear is — lock him up Biden faces politically thorny decision on Trump prosecutions IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households MORE (D) in the 9th District, Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanDemocratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Democrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries 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-CortezTrump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere Trump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE’s (D-N.Y.) campaign, hit back at Sires for running for office as a Republican in the 1980s.