Margins remain tight in two N.J. districts more than a week after election

Republicans poised for victory in LD8, with tighter Assembly races in LD11

By: - November 11, 2021 2:26 pm

A woman passing by a polling place in Ocean Grove on Nov. 2. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

More than a week after Election Day, Assembly races in Monmouth County’s 11th Legislative District remain too close to call, but the consistently broad margins in South Jersey’s 8th District suggest Republican candidates are likely to emerge victorious there.

In almost all of the races, Republicans are in the lead, and results in their favor would further weaken Democrats’ hold on the Legislature. Already the GOP has flipped two Senate seats — including Senate President Steve Sweeney’s, in the 3rd District — and four Assembly seats. Democrats have taken just one seat from Republicans, the Senate seat in the 16th District.

Democrats will hold onto their majorities in both chambers regardless of how these races turn out, but victories would give them more leeway to pass legislation controversial in suburban and exurban districts that saw outsized Republican turnout this year.

In the 8th District, the Associated Press on Thursday called the Senate race for Republican Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield, who leads Democratic state Sen. Dawn Addiego by 1,771 votes, with Stanfield grabbing 38,909 votes to Addiego’s 37,138. Addiego is a former Republican whose party switch in 2019 became a campaign issue this year.

The A.P. has also called the Assembly races in the 8th for the Republicans, whose leads are even broader. Hammonton Councilman Michael Torrissi is in first place with 39,713 votes, while his running mate, Brandon Umba, has 38,304. Democrats are trailing with Allison Eckel winning 36,043 votes and Mark Natale winning 35,904.

The margins leave Democrats with an exceedingly narrow path to victory. Few ballots remain uncounted in the 8th District — which includes mostly Burlington County towns, plus four in Camden and one in Atlantic — and it’s not clear the remaining ballots will be enough to narrow the gap.

The biggest chunk of uncounted votes comes from Burlington County, where election officials received roughly 2,000 provisional ballots. It’s not clear how many of those were cast in the 8th District.

In Hammonton, the district’s lone Atlantic County district, just 83 provisional ballots were cast on Election Day. Atlantic has another 337 provisional votes cast during early voting, but it’s unknown how many of those votes are out of Hammonton (during early voting, voters could cast ballots anywhere in their home county). Twenty-three of the early provisional ballots were cast in Hammonton’s early voting center.

More than 6,500 provisional ballots were cast in Camden County but it’s not clear yet how many were cast in the district’s four Camden County towns.

Also complicating matters are deficient mail-in votes that voters have until Nov. 13 to cure. It’s not known yet how many of these ballots were cast in the district.

Closer races in Monmouth

The 11th District races are even tighter. Though Democratic state Sen. Vin Gopal appears to have secured re-election — he leads GOP challenger Lori Annetta 36,138 to 33,516 — the district’s Assembly candidates are separated by just hundreds of votes.

Republican Marilyn Piperno leads the field with 34,539 votes, with running mate Kim Eulner in a close second with 34,388.

The Democrats trail. Assemblywoman Joann Downey is in third with 34,043 votes, while Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling has 33,784.

This puts Downey 345 votes behind Eulner.

An unknown number of late-arriving mail-in ballots remain uncounted, and election officials in Monmouth County don’t expect to release new tallies until Friday, when they plan to begin counting the roughly 1,700 provisional ballots cast in the 11th district.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.

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