Democrats fight off Senate challenge, pick up Assembly seats in New Jersey

New Jersey Democrats fended off a Republican challenge in a pivotal state Senate race and flipped three Assembly contests from GOP control Tuesday.

Associated Press

Nov 7, 2023, 9:46 PM

Updated 229 days ago


New Jersey Democrats fended off a Republican challenge in a pivotal state Senate race and flipped three Assembly contests from GOP control Tuesday, buoying the party’s prospects after a bleak showing in the last election.
State Sen. Vin Gopal defeated Republican Steve Dnistrian in the 11th Legislative District in Monmouth County. His running mates Margie Donlon and Luanne Peterpaul also defeated Republican incumbents in the same district. In Ocean County’s 30th District, Rabbi Avi Schnall defeated GOP incumbent Assemblyman Edward Thomson.
“I think voters are tired of the political bickering,” Gopal said Tuesday before his victory. “They want people to bring them together. There needs to be discussion and debate and decorum back in government.”
That campaign was among the most heavily contested this year, and saw more political spending than any other race, according to October figures from the state’s campaign finance watchdog.
MORE: Ballot counting and results now underway
Other races were too early to call.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy enthused that Gopal was “an extraordinary” colleague in the state Senate.
Gopal and Democrats aimed to keep the campaign centered on Democrats’ efforts over the last year to provide property tax rebates. The Democrats also focused heavily on abortion, arguing that a GOP-led Legislature could begin to roll back abortion protections in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In an interview earlier this year, Dnistrian said a top issue he heard from voters was concern that parents didn’t have enough control over school districts. The issue made headlines when the state attorney general sued three Monmouth County school districts, charging they violated the state’s anti-discrimination law with policies that called on officials to notify parents if their children had come out as transgender. State school guidelines and a 2017 law call for keeping a student’s orientation confidential.
All 80 seats in the Assembly and all 40 in the Senate were up for grabs, with the Democrats controlling both chambers.
Murphy, a Democrat who was not on the ballot but whose second-term agenda will depend in part on the makeup of the Legislature, held a number of get-out-the-vote events Tuesday. At an event in vote-rich Bergen County in suburban New York City, Murphy underscored his administration’s and Democrats’ role in protecting abortion rights.
The state Republican Party urged people not to skip voting because it could mean Democrats retain power in the Legislature.
Democrats hold a 25-15 seat advantage in the Senate and a 46-34 edge in the Assembly.
New Jersey’s Legislature has 40 total districts, with each sending one senator and two Assembly members to Trenton. Both parties typically run all three candidates together on a ticket. The 11th District was among the most closely watched in part because it's where Democrats control the Senate seat and the GOP controls the two Assembly spots.
Voting started in late September when the first mail-in ballots went out. The state also offered early in-person voting.
State figures showed some half a million ballots had already been cast before Election Day, including votes by mail and early in-person voting. Still, the majority of ballots in New Jersey are typically cast on Election Day.

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