NJ voters to shape US Senate, House races

June 3, 2008 8:27:38 AM PDT
New Jersey Democratic and Republican voters will decide Tuesday who will run for U.S. Senate this fall, with Republicans also deciding two contentious nomination races for open House seats and Atlantic City voters choosing a Democratic mayoral candidate. Turnout was light across the state after polls opened at 6 a.m. Polls close at 8 p.m.

Some voters also will decide county and municipal elections, but they won't vote on presidential candidates. The state held its presidential primary in February. That race was won by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain.

The campaigns for each party's nomination for a U.S. Senate seat have proven contentious.

Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg is being challenged by U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews and Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello.

Lautenberg has spent much of the campaign criticizing Andrews' early support for the Iraq war, though Andrews noted that Lautenberg also was an early supporter. Lautenberg and Andrews also clashed over whether Lautenberg, at 84, is too old to serve another term, and whether Andrews, 50, broke protocol by challenging a fellow Democrat.

Lautenberg, of Cliffside Park, was in the Senate from 1983 to 2001, then returned in 2003. Andrews, of Haddon Heights, has been in the House since 1990.

The race has split party leaders, but Lautenberg has the party organization support in Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Middlesex, which account for 41 percent of the state's Democratic voters. Andrews does have some political support in those areas, and hopes to get big support from his South Jersey base.

The winner of that race will face the Republican primary winner - either former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer, state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio or former gubernatorial candidate Murray Sabrin - in November.

Each has tried to position himself as a conservative champion of less government spending, with abortion rights being a key difference. Pennacchio and Sabrin oppose abortion; Zimmer supports abortion rights.

Zimmer, 63, has been out of elected politics for a dozen years after losing the 1996 U.S. Senate race and a 2000 House race. He is currently a Washington lawyer and lobbyist.

Pennacchio, 52, has been in the state Legislature since 2001 representing Morris County, the state's second largest Republican county behind Bergen. He is a dentist by trade.

Sabrin is a college economics professor who ran for governor as a Libertarian in 1997 and lost.

Voters will decide contested primaries in seven House districts, including three where the sitting congressmen are not seeking re-election:

  • The 1st District, which includes parts of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, where Andrews' wife Camille S. Andrews is running against John Caramanna, David G. Evans and Mahdi Ibn-Ziyard for the Democratic nomination to replace Andrews.
  • The 3rd District, which includes parts of Burlington, Camden and Ocean counties, where Republicans John P. Kelly, Justin Michael Murphy and Chris Myers are seeking the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. James Saxton. The winner will face Democratic state Sen. John Adler.
  • The 7th District, which includes parts of Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties, where seven Republicans are vying to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson. They include state Sen. Leonard Lance and Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Gov. Christie Whitman. Other Republican candidates are A.D. Amar, Kelly Hatfield, Martin Marks, Tom Roughneen, Darren Young. The winner will face Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender.

    In Atlantic City, voters will decide a Democratic mayoral candidate among incumbent Mayor Scott Evans, former mayor Lorenzo Langford and former acting mayor Domenic Cappella. The winner will face Republican John McQueen and independents Joseph Polillo and Willie Norwood.