Voters in the 1st Legislative District have returned the Democratic team of Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Bruce Land and Bob Andrzejczak to their seats in the state Legislature.
Andrzejczak and Land lead 14,896 and 13,879 votes respectively over Republican challengers James Saruo with 9,268 votes and Robert Campbell 99,464.
Van Drew led Republican Mary Gruccio 65 percent to 34 percent.
Van Drew said he is going to continue advocating for South Jersey in Trenton.
“Everyone from North Jersey and everywhere else is going to know where we are,” he said to the crowd assembled for the Democrats’ election night party.
The 1st District includes all of Cape May County, a large portion on Cumberland County and a sliver of Atlantic County. Its economy continues to lag behind the rest of the state, and unemployment rates are higher than the national and state average.
During the campaign, Republicans faced an uphill battle with name recognition, according to a poll from the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.
Gruccio, who is superintendent of the Vineland School District, struggled with name recognition during the campaign, according to the poll. More than 60 percent of the electorate polled said they didn't know much about her.
The Democratic assembly candidates faced the same issue. According to the Stockton poll in late September, nearly 70 percent of the people polled didn’t know Sauro, a Cumberland County freeholder. More than 80 percent were unfamiliar with Campbell, who is a businessman in Downe Township.
Andrzejczak said that, while Democrats fell short in some local races, the party is making headway in Republican-dominated Cape May County.
“We are so close to the edge of taking over,” Andrzejczak said during his victory speech. “We have a very bright future in Cape May County as Democrats.”
The Democratic slate has campaigned on a platform that included helping veterans bring jobs to Cumberland and Cape May counties and training potential employees. The Republican slate touted more school funding, help with economic development, property tax relief and resources to fight the opioid epidemic.