TOMS RIVER— In what has become a southern New Jersey tradition, Republican incumbents from the 9th Legislative District reclaimed their seats Tuesday evening in a face-off with three Ocean County Democrats.
During the campaign, the Democratic challengers called for change within the political structure of the 9th District, but the voters responded they are satisfied with the work the Republican legislators have been doing.
By 9 p.m., with all 141 districts reporting, 24-year veteran legislator State Sen. Chris Connors, R-Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington, defeated retired state Treasury Department employee and Berkeley Township resident Anthony Mazzella.
Connors finished in Ocean County with 72 percent of the vote.
Connors, of Lacey Township, started his legislative career in 1989 as a state assemblyman and then was voted in as the 9th District senator when his father, Leonard T. Connors, left the in 2008.
After the results of the victory in Ocean County, Connors said constituent services are and will always remain a high priority for the legislators.
“We’re gratified with the results and it certainly validates the hard work that we do for the people of the 9th District every single day throughout the year,” Connors said.
Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove reclaimed their seats with 36 percent and 34 percent of the vote, respectively, against challengers Peter Ferwerda of Little Egg Harbor Township and Christopher McManus of Stafford Township.
Rumpf, of Little Egg Harbor Township and Gove of Long Beach Township—both communities heavily damaged during Hurricane Sandy—pledged during the campaign to continue the work to rebuild the region.
Even though the victory party was held in Ocean County, the legislators did not forget about the constituents to the south in Atlantic County.
With the majority of their representation in southern Ocean County, the 9th District was reapportioned in 2011 to include parts of Atlantic and Burlington counties, including Galloway Township and Port Republic.
“We’re very excited, honored and privileged to serve the residents of Galloway, Port Republic and points north. This is a terrific night for republicans throughout the state of New Jersey, obviously, but for the role that we play we intend to faithfully execute all of our duties when we go back to Trenton,” Rumpf said.
With rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy at the forefront of their campaign, the republicans also ran on the pledge for tax reform, job growth and dedicating efforts to revitalize Atlantic City.
Gove who suffered storm damage at her Long Beach Township home during Hurricane Sandy pledged to continue the work for storm relief and recovery throughout the region.
The next step continues to be the efforts to return all residents who are displaced back to their homes, Gove said.
“It’s been a great election for us, but our work is not done. We still have to take care of those people who need help and that’s what I want to do,” she said.
Geographically, the 9th Legislative District is the third-largest in the state. Previously, Atlantic County municipalities that were part of the district included Folsom, Hammonton and Egg Harbor City.
In Galloway Township—a municipality of about 115 square miles—Connors, Gove and Rumpf have lobbied the New Jersey Turnpike Authority for a full interchange at Exit 40 of the parkway, revitalizing the Route 30 corridor and completing the goal of bringing the Jessica Lunsford Act to New Jersey.
The 9th Legislative District has been exclusively represented by Republicans in the state legislature since January 1982.
The districts in New Jersey have not had constant borders.
The state's legislature was originally composed on a by-county basis, but U.S. and state Supreme Court rulings ruled that was unfair to people in more populated counties. Districts were instituted in 1968, but the apportionment was still considered unfair, and they were rearranged in 1973. Democrats from Lakewood then took over the district, which was oriented a lot further north. Redistricting after the 1980 census got the 9th District to more or less its current shape, and the two democrats and one Republican elected in 1979 became three republicans elected in 1981.
Staff writer Derek Harper contributed to this report.