Sen. Andrew Zwicker leads Democrats to victory in 16th District

By: - November 7, 2023 11:47 pm

Sen. Andrew Zwicker faced a strong challenge from Republican Mike Pappas, a former one-term congressman. (Hal Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

Democrats swept all three races in the 16th Legislative District, part of a string of Election Day victories for the party statewide.

Sen. Andrew Zwicker celebrated at Princeton pizza mainstay Conte’s with his Democratic running mates Assemblyman Roy Freiman and Mitchelle Drulis, who worked as a campaign and district director for former Rep. Tom Malinowski, who was on hand too.

Sen. Andrew Zwicker celebrating his reelection win in Princeton on Nov. 7. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

Just after 10 p.m., Zwicker stood on a chair, grinning gleefully as he addressed cheering supporters in the packed pizzeria.

“Just to be clear, we lost about 25% of our Democratic base in redistricting, and we just won by the biggest margin,” Zwicker said as supporters applauded.

Zwicker faced a strong challenge from Republican Mike Pappas, a former one-term congressman whose campaign messaging blasted schools’ “philosophical indoctrination.”

Zwicker, who was elected to a second Senate term after three terms in the Assembly, attributed his win Tuesday to hard work.

“80,000 doors, 500,000 phone calls, and 450,000 texts, with just an enormous number of volunteers,” he said. “We did the work from day one, going back into the winter, and literally left no stone unturned.”

But Malinowski said the Democrats’ strong showing suggested voters reject the parental rights panic pushed by Republicans. Malinowski started a political action committee called Districts for Democracy last spring specifically to counter the “fringe” parental rights activists.

“The more mainstream message — ‘let’s protect our public schools, let’s empower parents, but not empower small groups of parents to make decisions for everybody else’ — prevailed,” he said.

Freiman, who won a fourth term in the Assembly, agreed that the message of preserving personal freedoms, including abortion rights and reading books without fear of censorship, resounded with voters.

“It appears that statewide, there was quite a message that’s being sent to some of these attacks,” Freiman said.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.