1st district Legislative candidates 2019

New Jersey’s 1st Legislative District race is expected to be particularly expensive and hard fought this year, since the district is one of the last to be competitive between the parties, and it is the only district with a state Senate race as well as an Assembly race. From left are incumbent Democrat Assemblyman R. Bruce Land, incumbent state Sen. Bob Andrzejczak, incumbent Democrat Assemblyman Matt Milam, Republican Mike Testa, running for state Senate, and Republican challengers for Assembly Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan.

State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, has a 14-point lead over Republican challenger Mike Testa in the 1st Legislative District race, but his running mates are in a tight race for their Assembly seats, according to a Stockton University poll released Thursday.

The district, long a battleground where both parties have a shot at success, is closely divided over the U.S. House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

It also opposes 51% to 37% the state preventing local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials.

But several factors may favor the Democrats in what is expected to be a low-turnout election, said John Froonjian, interim executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton.

One is what appears to be a more motivated Democratic base.

Sixty-two percent of Democrats said their feelings about Trump are likely to affect how they vote in this election, compared with 41% of independents and just 35% of Republicans.

“If large numbers of Democrats see any election nowadays as an opportunity to send a message, they would seem to have more motivation,” Froonjian said. “In a small geographic area like a legislative district … in what is considered a low-interest election … it wouldn’t take all that much to really dictate the outcome here.”

Republicans took issue with the results.

“With all due respect to the folks at Stockton, their poll ignores both the Republican registration advantage in the 1st Legislative District and the even more favorable Republican turnout advantage in recent years,” said Testa campaign manager Brittany O’Neill.

The poll did not ask people about their registration but asked them to self-identify as either Republicans, Democrats or independents, Froonjian said. Of respondents, 28% identified as Republican, 34% as Democrats and 35% as independent or “other.”

In contrast, county registration is about 30.5% Republican, 28.5% Democratic and 40% independent.

“Despite the million-dollar smear campaign funded by Camden Party Bosses and far-left special interests, Mike Testa has the momentum, and we expect to win on Nov. 5,” O’Neill said. “After we do, we’ll graciously accept an apology from the good people at Stockton.”

Another factor in the poll is overwhelming unfamiliarity with the Assembly candidates — even the incumbents — which may make people more likely to vote the party line under their Senate candidate.

“If people are supporting Andrzejczak, who appears to have a comfortable lead, and if they go down the line, the Democrats’ numbers could be better than they appear here,” Froonjian said. “That’s unknowable until Election Day.”

A majority also said they felt it was important for the district’s representatives to be of the governor’s party to get things done locally.

Immigration, which has played a big part in the Republicans’ campaign, was fourth behind New Jersey’s taxes, property taxes and health care as an issue deemed important to voters.

Both slates of candidates oppose an order from state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal preventing Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan from continuing an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But Republicans have highlighted it in a campaign that has focused on opposing Gov. Phil Murphy’s policies, which the GOP candidates have called “insane.”

The poll found 53% of likely voters plan to vote for Andrzejczak, compared with 39% for Testa, a Vineland attorney.

Assembly incumbents Bruce Land and Matthew Milam have a slight lead with 27% and 26% of voters supporting each, respectively.

Republican challengers Erik Simonsen, an educator and Lower Township mayor; and Antwan McClellan, an Ocean City councilman and Cape May County employee, each received 22% in the poll.

Froonjian noted the lead in the Assembly race is within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.

“It’s closer than we would like, but I’m glad to see our guys are up,” Andrzejczak said. “It doesn’t change anything in the way we will continue to campaign. We will push hard until the very end.”

Trump’s job performance rating was higher than Murphy’s in the poll, at 38% good or excellent compared with 31% for the governor.

There is a strong partisan divide regarding Trump, with 86% of district Republicans opposing the impeachment inquiry in the House, 85% of district Democrats supporting it and 54% of district independents opposing it.

Overall the district is split over the inquiry, with 47% in support and 48% opposed.

The Stockton Polling Institute of the Hughes Center interviewed 500 adult residents of the 1st District who were screened as likely voters. Interviewers working from the Stockton campus called landlines and cellphones from Oct. 15 to 21.

Andrzejczak was chosen by his party to replace former Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who is now a congressman.

His is the only state Senate seat on the November ballot, to fill Van Drew’s unexpired term.

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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