PRINCETON, NJ – Democrats won a major victory Tuesday night in one of the state’s most contested districts, taking its second assembly seat and giving popular GOP State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman a run for his money.
State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16, easily won re-election to his seat, taking running mate Roy Freiman with him to the statehouse in Trenton, according to the unofficial results from the four counties of Hunterdon, Mercer Middlesex and Somerset.
Zwicker won his first re-election bid after narrowly defeating Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon two years ago by just 78 votes.
This time around, however, Zwicker cruised into Trenton with almost 33,000 of the approximately 61,000 votes cast in those counties.
Zwicker, a Princeton physicist who lives in South Brunswick, earned 32,977 votes and his running mate, Freiman, following right behind him with 31,508 votes.
Simon came in third with 29,350 votes and her running mate, Mark Caliguire, rounding out the field with 28,727 votes, according to the unofficial results.
While taking the second assembly seat gave the Democrats a big victory, it was the strong showing of Democratic challenger Laurie Poppe to Republican State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman that really turned heads.
Poppe finished just 1,397 votes behind the popular Republican senator with 30,459 votes to Bateman’s 31,856.
Bateman’s seat has long been a given for Republicans and Democrats did not expect it to be vulnerable for several years yet.
Democrats hoped that re-districting some six years ago following the 2010 census would make the GOP stronghold more competitive by adding heavily Democratic Princeton and South Brunswick.
In just a few cycles, the district has gone from 3-0 for the GOP to 2-1 for the Democrats with Bateman now the lone Republican.
Zwicker said that win, or lose, Poppe’s run for the seat and strong showing were proof that the district is poised for change.
His initial and slim win over Simon in 2015 opened the door for the Democrats and then the opening widened this year when Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli gave up his seat to run for governor.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno defeated Ciattarelli in the GOP primary, but lost Tuesday night to Wall Street millionaire Phil Murphy in the Gubernatorial race.