NJ, VA Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2021 — The two states with odd-numbered year elections in 2021 are holding their partisan primaries today, though one Old Dominion party has already nominated its statewide candidates. Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will choose nominees for governor and other elected statewide offices and for seats in their respective state legislatures.

Virginia Republicans, in a unique “drive-thru” convention, chose their gubernatorial nominee, Glenn Youngkin, on May 8. Nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general were also selected through the ranked choice voting system to narrow the field to a point where one candidate receives majority support after several rounds of counting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is unopposed in the Democratic primary and former state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli, (pronounced: Chit-a-relli) is favored to capture the GOP nod after receiving official local Republican party endorsements in 17 of the state’s 21 counties. He faces businessman and frequent candidate Hirsch Singh, former Franklin mayor, Brian Levine, and pastor Phil Rizzo.

Virginia Democrats are expected to again back former governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as their party nominee. He enjoys wide polling leads over former Prince William County state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), scandal-tainted Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and state Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas).

Virginia is the only state in the Union that limits its governors to one four-year term but does not prevent former incumbents from seeking the office again as McAuliffe is doing. Many southern states historically installed a one-term limit for their governors, but Virginia remains the only place that maintains the practice. McAuliffe served from 2013 through 2017 before yielding to current incumbent Ralph Northam (D).

A general election between McAuliffe and Youngkin will be a high-spending political affair, as both candidates are financially well-heeled and capable of contributing millions of dollars from their own resources if needed. McAuliffe, a proven Democratic fundraiser, will have little trouble securing the funding he will require for his statewide campaign while Youngkin is expected to invest a large amount from his personal resources.

The Democrat will begin the general election, to be decided on Nov. 2, as the front-runner, but he can expect a strong challenge from the Republican nominee.

Returning to New Jersey, Ciattarelli has already been acting as the nominee in running ads attacking Gov. Murphy over his record on jobs and crime. We can expect to see further offensives in the general election particularly about the governor’s record on COVID considering New Jersey continues to hold the highest per capita death rate in the nation despite Murphy employing heavy lockdown policies.

Though the governor is a heavy favorite in this most Democratic of states, it is important to remember that NJ voters have chosen the Republican gubernatorial nominee in six of the last 11 statewide general elections. Therefore, despite the most recent voting trends, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the 2021 contest could become competitive. That being said, however, Gov. Murphy remains the early favorite to win re-election on Nov. 2.

All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates will be on the ballot this year, with Republicans needing to secure a net gain of six seats to return to the majority. The 40 state Senate elections will be held in 2023, as senators hold four-year terms.

In New Jersey, all 120 seats (80 in the General Assembly and 40 in the state Senate) will be on the ballot in 2021. Democrats have safe majorities in each house, with a 52-28 spread in the Assembly and a 25-15 advantage in the Senate. In the Garden State, candidates are elected from 40 legislative districts, with each LD electing one senator and two assemblymembers.

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