What was supposed to be a ho-hum legislative election produced three upsets with two more in the works, giving Republicans a gain in legislative seats for the first time since 1991.
New Jersey’s southernmost 1st Legislative District saw Republicans Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan upset incumbent Democrats Bruce Land and Matthew Milam. Simonsen garnered 27% of the vote and McClellan 26% while Land and Milam came in with 24% and 23% respectively.
In the District 1 special Senate election, Republican Mike Testa defeated incumbent Bob Andrzejczak, 53% to 47%.
The first district is comprised of all of Cape May County and part of Cumberland and Atlantic counties.
Atlantic County’s 2nd Legislative District saw Republicans Philip Guenther and John Risley each garner 26% while incumbents Vincent Mazzeo received 25% and John Armato received 23%. The race is considered too close to call as of Wednesday afternoon.
On the Republican side, District 21 Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the leader of the Assembly Republicans, was seen as vulnerable by some observers. He won reelection, garnering 26% of the vote along with fellow incumbent Nancy Munoz. They defeated challengers Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman, who received 23% of the vote each.
While having this many seats change hands was surprising, it does not alter the fundamental partisan makeup of New Jersey government. Democrats are still firmly in control of both the Assembly and the Senate. In the next election in 2021, however, all seats in both the Assembly and Senate will be on the ballot, as will Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent.
Depending on what happens with District 2, Democrats will continue to enjoy a 50 to 52-seat majority. Senate Democrats will have a 25-seat majority, with Republicans controlling 15 seats.
The NEW JOBS PAC, the business community’s main political action committee, issued a statement congratulating the winners.
“As they take office in January, we look forward to working with our newly elected legislators to promote policies that grow New Jersey’s job creators and put the state on a more competitive footing with our surrounding states,” said Chrissy Buteas, executive director of the NEW JOBS PAC.