Legislative District 16 Could Be Split, Zwicker And Simon Locked In 29 Vote Battle

Democratic Assembly candidates Maureen Vella and Andrew Zwicker address supporters in Princeton Tuesday night. Credits: Charles W. Kim
Credits: Charles W. Kim

PRINCETON, NJ – Even as Democratic State Assembly candidate Andrew Zwicker made his concession speech at Conte’s on Witherspoon Street around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, his numbers were still increasing, and may have given him a seat in Trenton.

In Somerville, Republican incumbents Jack Ciatarelli and Donna Simon were not declaring victory just yet.

The only two apparent certainties of Tuesday’s election seem to be that Ciatarelli will go back to Trenton and Democratic challenger Maureen Vella will stay home.

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According to the unofficial results from the district’s four counties of Middlesex, Mercer, Somerset and Hunterdon, Ciatarelli came out on top with 16,488 votes and Vella came in fourth with 15,917.

Zwicker garnered 16,176 to possibly take the second seat with Simon only 29 votes behind him at 16,147.

Video of the start of Zwicker's concession speech, despite possibly winning a seat in the assembly Tuesday night.

A split would mean a huge victory for state Democrats as it is the first time in many years that a member of that party, from that district, would sit on the assembly.

The district was reconfigured in 2011 following the prior year’s census to try and make it more competitive from a seemingly safe Republican stronghold.

South Brunswick Township in Middlesex County and Princeton in Mercer County, both staunchly Democratic, were added.

South Brunswick is also the most populated town in the new district.

Starting in 2011, the races became more competitive for the Democrats, although they lost three straight elections.

South Brunswick Township Councilman Joe Camorata, a Democrat, ran with Democrat Marie Corfield to try and break into the district.

Ciatarelli and longtime Republican legislator Peter Biondi won that race, but Biondi died days later following a long battle with cancer.

Simon was appointed to his seat and held it through a special election against Corfield in 2012, and again with Ciatarelli in 2013’s normal election cycle.

During those races, however, the margins of victory for the Republicans were much smaller than in the past.

As of very early Wednesday morning, it is not yet known if a recount will be sought in the race, but neither Zwicker nor Simon was going to bed thinking they were the winner of the second seat.

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