Elections

Assemblywoman Donna Simon Concedes 16th District Race, Won’t Seek Recount (UPDATED 1:40 p.m.)

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Assemblywoman Donna Simon, R-16. Credits: Charles W. Kim
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Assemblyman-elect, Democrat Andrew Zwicker, right, speaks with a supporter in Princeton on Saturday. Credits: Charles W. Kim
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TRENTON, NJ – State Assemblywoman Donna Simon, R-16, said Monday that she will not seek a recount in the 16th legislative district race, finally giving the full victory to Democratic challenger Andrew Zwicker.

Simon, who is attending the legislative session in Trenton, said that she placed a call to her challenger Monday morning conceding the race.

Zwicker, the physicist from South Brunswick, confirmed the call and said that Simon “was gracious” in giving up the tightly contested race.

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Simon, who had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to call for a recount, said in a statement that she would let it speak for itself and not grant any other interviews at this time.

"After taking the necessary time to allow for the provisional ballots to be counted properly, and to ensure no major irregularities were discovered during the voting process, I have decided to concede the election with a razor thin margin of just 76 votes out of more than 32,000 cast. It was my distinct honor and privilege to serve my constituents of the 16th Legislative District in the State Assembly and the people of our great State," Simon's satement said. "I have worked tirelessly to fight for a more affordable state in which to live, work and retire. I take great pride in voting against every tax increase that came before me and leading the fight to eliminate wasteful spending, while at the same time advocating on behalf of improved education, increased public safety and the rights of our most vulnerable. Last, but certainly not least, I will never regret living up to my oath to always defend the Constitution, no matter the consequences."
 
The statement continued: "As the dismal voter turnout this year demonstrated, the citizens of New Jersey are disgusted with Trenton and the entrenched special interests who are the true enemies of progress and reform. I share their frustration. I leave with a heavy heart, but with great pride in having always served with purpose, honor and integrity. I sincerely thank all who have placed their faith in me and for their continued support. God bless you all."

Election night totals gave Zwicker a 29-vote advantage which continued to increase to 78 votes by the time all of the provisional ballots were counted on Nov. 9.

Zwicker ended up winning the race 16,308 to Simon’s 16,230.

He attended the South Brunswick Veterans’ Day ceremony in South Brunswick with Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli, R-16, who retained his seat on Election Day, and State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-16.

The Assemblyman-elect sat in between the two Republicans during the ceremony and jovially chatted with them both before and after.

He also hosted a victory celebration at Conte’s Pizza in Princeton on Saturday afternoon to thank his supporters, family and campaign staff.

Zwicker had initially conceded the race with running mate Maureen Vella just before 11 p.m. election night, but closed the around 200-vote gap by night’s end.

Only 23 percent of the district’s 143,404 voters turned out in the off-year contest, leaving only a 534-vote span between Ciatarelli on the top and Vella on the bottom.

The Republican stronghold district was changed following the 2010 census to add heavily Democratic South Brunswick and Princeton in an effort to make it more competitive.

Former Democratic candidate Marie Corfield said that the state Democratic Party predicted that the district would “flip” to all Democrats in five years.

Corfield ran three times unsuccessfully for a seat, first against Ciatarelli and the late Peter Biondi in 2011, then against Simon in a special election in 2012 for Biondi’s unexpired term, coming within 1,000 votes.

She then ran again in 2013 during the regular cycle.

Zwicker is the first Democrat ever to represent the district.

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