JERSEY SHORE – As both political sides get more and more extreme every year, the trend was bucked in the primary election where established incumbents bested their challengers.
The primary race decides who is going to be on the ballot in November from the two main political parties. This year, JerseyShoreOnline focused on some of the more heated races that impacted Ocean and Monmouth counties.
The results in this article are based on preliminary counts. It takes weeks to certify elections. However, in each case, the margin of victory is so large that there is no way to mistake the winner.
Split Republican Party
Ocean County’s Republicans have been divided lately, which is dangerous for the party since this is the strongest GOP headquarters in the state. Former leader George Gilmore had been convicted of tax fraud but was pardoned on President Donald Trump’s last day in office. By all accounts, he still holds sway in the party, if not in an official capacity.
Frank Holman currently runs the county Republicans, but it is general knowledge that this will change.
The county committee is made up of scores of people from each party whose job it is to field candidates. In the primary election, residents chose which members of their neighborhood would be on that committee. The committee will then determine the next leader. It is said to be between Gilmore and Sheriff Michael Mastronardy, who was unopposed in his primary win.
Ocean County Commissioners Jack Kelly and Virginia Haines won the primary, each getting about 28,000 votes. They are both long-established Republicans with deep roots in the county.
They were challenged by Sergio Fossa and Toms River Board of Education member Ashley Lamb, who both got about 17,000 votes. They ran on the same America First conservative party with congressional candidate Mike Crispi, allying themselves with Trump and Gilmore. High profile political people with criminal records stumped for them, including Roger Stone (convicted of witness tampering and obstruction) and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (pled guilty to lying to the FBI about working with Russia).
Crispi, Fossa and Lamb had been on the coveted Column A, which always provides more votes. People generally vote down a party line, without paying much attention to the names. So, it is unclear how many of their 17,000 votes were for them and how many were just for Column A.
2nd Congressional District
After the district was redrawn for 2023, it will contain Barnegat, Barnegat Light, Beach Haven, Berkeley (parts), Eagleswood, Harvey Cedars, Lacey (parts), Little Egg Harbor, Long Beach Township, Ocean Township (Waretown), Ship Bottom, Stafford, Surf City, and Tuckerton.
Jeff Van Drew started his career as a Democrat, then switched parties to support Donald Trump against his first impeachment. His challengers said he wasn’t far enough to the right, but voters disagreed.
Even though only a third of the votes had been counted by the day after the election, Van Drew many more votes than his opposition, John Barker and Sean Pignatelli.
The 2nd District was redrawn to hold even more Ocean County towns – a Republican stronghold, which should make Van Drew a strong contender to keep his seat. The morning after the primary, 17,000 votes had been counted in his favor, and 7,000 of those came from Ocean County.
3rd Congressional District
Come January 2023, none of Ocean County will be in District 3. Locally, it will just have these towns in Monmouth County: Allentown, Englishtown, Freehold Township (part) and Borough, Holmdel, Manalapan, Marlboro, Millstone, Roosevelt and Upper Freehold.
This used to be ranked as one of the most competitive districts in the country. After this redistricting, it will be safer for Democrats.
Democrat Andy Kim is the incumbent and easily won the chance to represent the party in November.
Republicans chose Bob Healey to take him on. He was facing Ian Smith, who rose to popularity as a gym owner who defied the governor’s COVID mandates, and then his history of drunk driving – in which he killed a teenager – came to the public. He also bested realtor Nicholas Ferrara.
4th Congressional District
This district is helmed by Republican Chris Smith. He currently has Lakewood and Jackson – just the top of Ocean County. In January, that district will have Bay Head, Beachwood, parts of Berkeley, Brick, Island Heights, Jackson, Lacey (parts), Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lavallette, Manchester, Mantoloking, Ocean Gate, Pine Beach, Plumsted, Point Pleasant, Point Pleasant Beach, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, South Toms River and Toms River.
In Monmouth, it has Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar, Brielle, Colts Neck, Eatontown, Farmingdale, Freehold Township (part), Howell, Lake Como, Manasquan, Middletown, Ocean Township (Monmouth County), Sea Girt, Shrewsbury, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights, Tinton Falls, and Wall.
This district has been safe for Smith, who has decades in office. By adding more Ocean County towns, it will be even safer for Republicans.
In this county alone, he received about 21,000 votes compared to Mike Crispi’s 14,000 votes. Crispi is a podcaster from Seaside Park who called Smith a RiNO – Republican in Name Only.
Smith’s conservative voting record, and his pro-life stance, and his faith, made him staunchly Republican for his many years in office. As the GOP gets pulled more to the right by vocal challengers like Crispi, Smith was painted as a moderate by comparison. In retaliation, Smith put more fight into this primary than he would have had to in the past. He made a lot of local appearances, and his advertising talked about going to battle against Nancy Pelosi and Biden’s agenda.