While the presidential race may top the ballot in today’s primary, the most prominent races are happening for Congress.
One of the hottest races is happening right here in 10th District, which is dominated by most of Newark and surrounding communities (including Maplewood and South Orange).
The death of Rep. Donald M. Payne put this seat up for grabs and brought six Democrats out to vie for it. This is the hands down most Democratic district in the state -- there are 208,000 registered Democrats and 21,000 registered Republicans with 179,000 unaffiliated -- so the primary winner is likely to coast to victory in November.
Leading the pack is Donald Payne Jr., son of the former congressman and president of Newark’s council. Fellow Councilman Ronald Rice Jr., son of the state senator, is also on the ballot, as are state Sen. Nia Gill of Montclair and Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith. Political novices Cathy Wright and Dennis Flynn round out the field.
Payne says he’s the best person to continue his father’s legacy. Gill notes that New Jersey’s congressional delegation has no women. Rice has courted labor. Smith portrays himself as a regular guy. Flynn and Wright both are, with neither having held elected office before.
In addition to the race for a seat in the new congress, Payne Jr., Rice and Smith are also seeking to fill the remaining two months of Payne Sr.’s term in the currently configured 10th District in a special election. According to House rules, the seat remains vacant until November.
While the statewide U.S. Senate primary should technically be drawing the most attention, incumbent Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is unopposed and Republican frontrunner, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, might as well be.
Kyrillos, who has close times to Gov. Chris Christie, became the anointed party standard bearer early on so no other prominent Republicans got in the race. He has three opponents -- David-Douglas Brown, Joe “Rudy” Rullo and Bader G. Qarmout -- who have had a tough time getting attention. There was not even one GOP debate.
Qarmout got the endorsement of several local Tea Party groups, as well as the National Rifle Association. Rullo founded a solar energy firm and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the past. Brown is an inventor who tried to run for governor in 2009 but got booted from the ballot.
Kyrillos has been focused on Menendez since the campaign began and none of the pundits expects him to lose today.
Polls are open until 8 p.m. today.
Political observers expect little more than 400,000 voters to show up to vote today in this year’s primary.
If that number turns out to be right, it would mean less than 10 percent of voters went to the polls or only 15 percent of registered Republicans or Democrats. Nevertheless, there are 60 candidates and 17 contested races in the state for federal offices.
Read the full story in NJ Spotlight, an online news service providing insight and information on issues critical to New Jersey.
Information on all the candidates and the races, as well as district maps, a link to find local polling places and other election information, is available from NJ Spotlight’s Voter Guide.