NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Despite an energetic challenge from a progressive wing, incumbent Democrats in Middlesex County appear to have won their party’s nominations in races for freeholder and the state Assembly and Senate in the 17th legislative district, according to unofficial election results.
The slate of candidates for the Middlesex County Democratic Organization in contested races includes two freeholders, two state assemblymen and one state senator. Barring any last-minute eruptions, each of those individuals will represent the blue team in the November elections.
“All in all, it was a very good night for Ambassador [Phil] Murphy and the entire Middlesex County Democratic Organization line of candidates, from top to bottom,” the county’s Democratic chairman, Kevin McCabe, told TAPinto New Brunswick. “The integrity of the line held up very well this evening.”
As of 10:30 p.m., most districts in Middlesex County and the 17th legislative district had reported their vote totals. Mail-in and provisional ballots have yet to be tallied, and a few lingering districts had yet to report in at least one of the races, according to the unofficial results.
The results aren’t yet official. A county staffer said that could occur later this week or beyond.
As of this hour, state Sen. Bob Smith led Bill Irwin, a leader among the newly-formed Central Jersey Progressive Democrats, by 6,229 votes to 2,575. That puts Smith in a position to battle Republican Daryl Kipnis for the seat in the fall.
Assemblyman Joe Danielsen earned 5,413 votes, while his running mate Joseph Egan took him 5,922 votes, according to the unofficial results. Those appeared to be enough to beat Heather Fenyk, who had won 2,916 votes, and Ralph Johnson, with his 2,828 votes.
Danielsen and Egan are poised to square up against Republican challengers Robert Quinn and Nadine Wilkins in the general election.
As of this writing, Freeholder Director Charlie Tomaro won 26,624 votes on his path to re-election to a three-year term. His running mate, Leslie Koppel, who was appointed to the freeholder board this year, won 26,420 votes, according to the unofficial results.
They bested Catherine Hunt and her 10,664 votes and Atif Nazir and his 9,453 votes, according to the unofficial results.
Tomaro and Koppel stand to join their peer, Freeholder Shanti Narra—who ran unopposed in the primary election to fill an unexpired one-year term—in competing in the general election.
They’re slated to face Republican newcomers Mina Kolta, Priti Pandya-Patel and Susan Zellner Hogan. Zellner Hogan won her party’s nomination for the one-year term tonight in an unopposed race.
Despite the loss, Irwin said he and his Central Jersey Progressive Democrats are proud of the fight they put up.
“We’ve shown that there is a significant and growing progressive movement here in Central New Jersey,” Irwin told TAPinto New Brunswick. “This is certainly not the end of the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats. This is undoubtedly the beginning.”
McCabe, the Democratic chairman, called for unity within the party going forward.
“We as a party need to come together, from statewide to the local level,” he said. “We need to approach this in a collective manner to ensure that the Democrats not only win the gubernatorial seat, but secure victory throughout the state.”
Irwin said his faction’s goal is not to split the party. Rather, he said, he wants to unite its members and boost poor and working-class families.
“At the end of the day, we’re all Democrats,” he said.