South Brunswick: Town’s Votes Likely To Decide 16th District Legislative Race

Democrats Maureen Vella and Andrew Zwicker. Credits: Charles W. Kim
Assemblywoman Donna Simon. Credits: Charles W. Kim

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – As Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon and Democratic challenger Andrew Zwicker await the outcome of their super-tight race in the 16th District, one point is clear no matter how cliché, every vote matters.

Zwicker is currently leading the incumbent by 61 votes with all provisional votes counted in three of the four counties making up the district.

Middlesex County will count its votes, all from South Brunswick, at some time Monday, according to officials.

Sign Up for E-News

GOP incumbent Jack Ciatarelli will return to Trenton by winning the most votes in last week’s election with 16,567, and Democratic challenger Maureen Vella was turned away by voters with 16,020, only 547 votes away from Ciatarelli’s high.

In the middle, the battle really heated up with Zwicker at 16,283 and Simon at 16,222 with 51 votes still to be counted in Middlesex County.

South Brunswick is the only municipality from that county in the district.

Zwicker, a South Brunswick resident and director at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Lab, ended up 29 votes ahead as of Tuesday night.

Provisional ballots in three of the four counties counted during the week increased his lead to 61 as of Sunday morning.

If he were to hold on, he would be the first Democrat to represent the district, ever.

The Republican stronghold reformed following the 2010 census by adding heavily Democratic South Brunswick and Princeton in Mercer County to make it more competitive.

In the three election cycles since the change, Democrats have edged closer and closer to splitting the district.

Even so, Tuesday’s result, and possible Democratic upset, flew under the radar of most pundits throughout the state, who believed it would stay in Republican hands.

“I’m really proud of our grassroots campaign,” a hopeful Zwicker said Sunday. “It really shows that every vote counts.”

For Zwicker, it has been a real roller coaster ride of emotions, from actually conceding the race with Vella around 11 p.m. Tuesday night at Conte’s in Princeton, to looking more and more as if he will get Simon’s seat in the assembly.

Simon said Saturday that she is waiting to see what happens when all the votes are counted, only then deciding if she will ask for a recount, or challenge the results.

Only 23 percent of the district’s 143,404 registered voters, or 32,546, went to the polls Tuesday, according to official figures from the counties and the state.

Democrats gained 4,000 registered voters on Republicans following the reformation, but the district’s largest share of voters comes from 69,932 unaffiliated residents, according to the state.

Only 0.84 percentage points separate all four candidates, and the difference between Zwicker and Simon is currently only 0.09 percent, according to the results.

The “bump” that could have put Zwicker over the top may have actually had more to do with the South Brunswick Board of Education race.

Incumbents Barry Nathanson and Peter St. Vincent were returned to the body with 2,548 and 2,380 votes respectively.

Board President Dr. Stephen Parker also won re-election with 2,239 votes.

Both Nathanson and St. Vincent are aligned with the athletics part of the district which has gained seats on the board in recent years with Dan Boyle and Pat DelPiano.

Zwicker, whose son Matt Golden played football for SBHS, and his daughter who plays varsity sports as well, are well known amongst those in that particular clique.

The SBHS athletic vote could have given Zwicker the advantage in the overall race.

Both the Republicans and Democrats conducted primarily “quiet” campaigns this cycle consisting of knocking on thousands of doors in the district and mailings to voters.

Neither side appeared to spend a lot of money on the race.

Zwicker said Sunday that Democrats did not spend much on the race because it seemed that the district would likely stay Republican.

The Zwicker/Vella campaign did benefit, however, from two Princeton events that brought out State Senate President Steven Sweeney, D-Camden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, and several other Democratic elected officials from the state and Mercer County.

Voters leaving the polls in South Brunswick on Tuesday said that they couldn’t define any particular issues that they wanted addressed, but felt it was their obligation to cast their ballots.

“It’s important for people to vote in any election,” Bruce Feldman of Kendall Park said as he left the polling site at the Community Center in Woodlot Park. “It is a right our veterans have fought and died for.”

Did you like this story?

Give us your feedback at ckim@tapinto.net or nwells@tapinto.net.

If you did like it, please share with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, and don't forget to "Like" our Facebook Page!

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


South Plainfield Students Planning to Walkout in Support of Safer Schools

February 23, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – In the wake of last week’s tragic school shooting in Florida, students from across the country – including right here in South Plainfield – are joining together for change.

On Feb. 16, the non-profit organization Women’s March launched a Youth EMPOWER movement calling for a national school walkout and publicizing the event on social ...


Christina C. Sweet (Diaz) 79 years, died Monday January 1, 2017 at Robert Wood Johnson University ...
Read more
- Nov 15, 2017
Phillip A. Petracca, also widely known as Filippo Neri in the Italian-American Radio and ...
Read more

New Brunswick and the Civil War:  The Brunswick Boys in the Great Rebellion

February 23, 2018

February 25

(Snow date 3/11)

New Brunswick and the Civil War:  The Brunswick Boys in the Great Rebellion

with local author Joanne H. Rajoppi

2:00PM – 4:00PM

TKTS: members $10, in advance $12, door $15

Limited seating - adv. registration sug.

Light refreshments included

Dutch Door Gift Shop ...

Early Cat in the Hat Visit to Piscataway Regional Day School

NJEA’s Cat In The Hat Visits PRDS

Students at the Piscataway Regional Day School (PRDS) were treated to an early visit from the New Jersey Education Association’s seven foot 'Cat in the Hat', in advance of Read Across America, the annual nationwide celebration of reading.

Wearing the traditional red and white stovepipe hat, the Cat in the Hat, (retired teacher, Marie ...

Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

New Brunswick, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 

“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ‘No ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

Metlar-Bodine House Museum, Piscataway

New Brunswick and the Civil War:  The Brunswick ...

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

Edison High School Auditorium, Edison

Free community viewing of "BAG IT" - Award ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Sat, February 24, 4:00 PM

American Legion, South Plainfield

Boy Scout Troop 207 Spaghetti Dinner

Food & Drink

Sun, February 25, 1:00 PM

St. David's Episcopal Church, Cranbury

Organizing for the 2018 Mid-terms: Elections, ...

Education Giving Back Government


Tue, February 27, 7:00 PM

Cranford Community Center, Cranford

“Olmsted By Design!” Free First-Person, Dramatic ...

Arts & Entertainment Green Home & Garden

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 15, 2018

Guest Column

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The ...

Let the Games Begin

I am truly awed by the Olympics.  Watching these superb young athletes on TV inspires me to renew my membership to the gym and pursue my lifelong dream of taking home the gold.  


The problem is that in my deluded head, I can see actually see myself standing atop the podium.  I am wrapped in a puffy designer ski coat with a huge piece of bling slung around my neck ...

The Best Way to Pay Your Child a Compliment

“Of course you’re good-looking.”  “You’re the best friend ever.”  “Who wouldn’t want you on their team?”  Is there a parent out there (including me) who hasn’t praised a child in order to make him or her feel better?  Sometimes it’s true, and sometimes we say it because we just can’t stand to see them ...

Height during childhood associated with increased stroke risk in adulthood

Researchers in Denmark studied the health records of more than 300,000 people born between 1930 and 1989 and found that those who were shorter than average height between ages 7 and 13 had a greater risk of stroke as adults. The results of this study were published in the February 15, 2018 issue of the journal Stroke.

Summary: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320922.php

Journal ...

Very Hot Tea Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers in China studying the consumption of “burning” hot tea, alcohol, and smoking habits of greater than 450,000 people ages 30 –79 for more than nine years found a five time greater risk of esophageal cancer in those who engaged in all three of the behaviors and a two time greater risk in those who either smoked or drank alcohol and consumed burning hot tea as compared ...