Slew of Republican candidacies leave N.J. with wide congressional field

63 candidates file to seek 12 House seats

By: - April 5, 2022 2:36 pm

Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat seeking his third term this year, will face one Democratic challenger in June’s primary. Seven Republicans have filed for a chance to unseat him. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

A slew of Republican candidacies has left New Jersey — and the 7th Congressional District in particular —  with a wider congressional field than it has seen in decades.

Sixty-three candidates filed to seek one of New Jersey’s 12 House seats ahead of Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline. With 41 candidates, Republicans account for nearly two-thirds of those running.

The surge in candidacies comes amid some Democratic struggles seven months out from the midterm elections, when the party opposing the president has a historical advantage. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are underwater by nearly 12 percentage points on average.

While it’s not likely Republicans will take a majority of New Jersey’s congressional seats, poor Democratic performance in generic House polls and recent elections in the state suggest they’re poised to expand their representation.

7th District

Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat seeking his third term, faces a single primary challenger, Phillipsburg resident Roger Bacon, a perennial candidate who launched a run for governor last year but was tossed off the ballot after a successful challenge to his nominating petitions.

Seven Republicans are vying for the chance to take on Malinowski, who has drawn scrutiny for stock trades the former assistant U.S. secretary of state failed to properly disclose.

Malinowski barely eked out a win in 2020, but the addition of heavily Republican Warren County and parts of equally red Sussex County have made the 7th District a more challenging place for Democrats to campaign.

Former state Sen. Tom Kean, who nearly ousted Malinowski in 2020 and gave up his legislative seat for a rematch this year, has party backing in the district.

Kean will face former gubernatorial candidate Philip Rizzo, Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Hunterdon), Fredon Mayor John Flora, and political newcomers Sterling Schwab, John Henry Isemann, and Kevin Dorlon in the GOP primary.

4th District

The situation is similar in the 4th District, where Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican and the dean of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, faces five primary challengers from his right: former independent Senate candidate Tricia Flanagan, conservative talk show host Mike Crispi, Steve Gray, Mike Blasi, and Robert Shapiro.

In New Jersey, House candidates must gather at least 200 signatures to appear on the ballot. Shapiro filed with just 203.

A single Democrat, Matthew Jenkins, is running in the district with party support.

3rd District

Democratic Rep. Andy Kim faces a single primary challenger, Reuven Hendler, a small business owner running to Kim’s left.

Yacht company scion Bob Healey Jr. has official Republican Party support in the district but faces two primary challengers. Foremost among them is Ian Smith, the gym owner who gained fame in certain Republicans after flouting pandemic restrictions enacted by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Smith was arrested on DWI charges last week after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop. His campaign has said Smith was sober but refused the test over fears of a politically motivated setup.

Republican Realtor Nicholas Ferrara has filed to run in the district under a conservative banner.

10th District

Rep. Donald Payne, a Democrat seeking his fifth full term, faces two progressive challengers, former New Jersey Working Families legislative director Imani Oakley and Akil Khalfani, the director of the Africana Institute at Essex County College. Payne has party support.

Two Republicans, Garth Stewart and David Pinckney, are running in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

11th District

Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill faces no primary challengers in her bid for a third term, but Republican candidacies have poured into the district.

Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen has the support of the GOP organizations in Morris and Essex counties, while former Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Paul DeGroot has the backing of his county’s GOP.

Three newcomers — Alexander Halter, Ruth McAndrew, and Toby Anderson — are also seeking the Republican nomination.

8th District

Five Democrats have filed to run for Rep. Albio Sires’ seat in the House. Sires, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election.

Rob Menendez, a Democrat and the son of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, has organizational support in all three of the district’s counties and has won endorsements from Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Sires, and a slew of other prominent Democrats.

Menendez faces four primary opponents: Ane Roseborough-Eberhard, Brian Varela, David Ocampo Grajales, and Eugene Mazo, who filed with just 221 signatures and is running under slogans that falsely claim he has been endorsed by the New York Times and won Murphy’s support.

Marcos Arroyo is the sole Republican who filed paperwork to run in this overwhelmingly Democratic district.

5th District

Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer faces no primary challenger in his bid for a fourth term.

Frank Pallotta, the district’s 2020 Republican nominee, has party support in Passaic County, while former Marine Corps officer Nick de Gregorio has official GOP backing in Bergen County. Sussex County’s Republican organization does not back candidates in primaries.

Sab Skenderi, Fred Schneiderman, and Richard Franolich are also seeking the Republican nod. Franolich filed with just 218 signatures.

2nd District

Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew has party support in his bid for a third term. He faces primary challenges from political newcomers John Barker and Sean Pignatelli.

Attorney Tim Alexander has support from Democratic organizations in each of the district’s counties but faces a challenge from Carolyn Rush, an engineer at Lockheed Martin.

6th District

Rep. Frank Pallone is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Republican Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley has organizational support from both of the district’s counties. She will face former U.S. Senate candidate Rik Mehta, former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Gregg Mele, and businessman Tom Toomey in the GOP primary.

12th District

Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman has no primary opponents.

Republican Darius Mayfield is running with party support. He faces a single challenger, Nicholas Catucci, who filed with just 210 signatures.

1st District

Rep. Donald Norcross, a Democrat, has just one primary challenger, teacher Mario DeSantis.

Republican Claire Gustafson is making her third bid for the 1st District seat with organizational support. West Deptford resident Damon Galdo is challenging her in the GOP primary.

9th District

The 9th District will see a 2020 rematch. Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell and Republican Billy Prempeh are each unopposed in their primaries.

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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.