Polls Close in Mostly Mail-In Primary in New Jersey

The West End Hose Company fire station in Somerville, New Jersey, was one of several locations open Tuesday for voters to cast their ballots in the state’s primary election. (Courthouse News photo/Nick Rummell)

TRENTON, N.J. (CN) — Polls are officially closed in New Jersey, where results for a mostly mail-in primary may drag through the week for at least one key race.

As per an executive order by Governor Phil Murphy, the primary — originally scheduled for May 12 — was held primarily by mail-in ballot, with a handful of polling places offering provisional ballots.

Mail-in ballots must have been postmarked by Tuesday but they may be received by election officials for up to a week.

The delays in counting those ballots could lead to a week-long wait to find out which Republicans are likely to challenge the Democrats that were ushered into three competitive House seats two years ago during the “blue wave.”

In the 2nd Congressional District, Democrat-turned-Republican Jeff Van Drew beat former Trump administration official Bob Patterson. As of 10 p.m. Eastern time, Van Drew had received almost 80% of the vote.

Van Drew, originally a conservative Democrat, switched parties last year after rebuking his colleagues’ impeachment of the president. After joining the GOP, Van Drew declared his “undying support” for President Donald Trump.

The switch allowed Democrats to try to usher in a candidate more in line with the party’s views.

Amy Kennedy, the wife of Rhode Island U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, won the Democratic primary, fending off establishment Democrat Brigid Harrison, who conceded shortly after polls closed.

Kennedy, who received about 55% of the vote as of 9 p.m., is a former public school teacher and mental health advocate. She was able to gain endorsements from U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Governor Murphy. 

Another competitive congressional district, the 3rd District, voted for President Barack Obama twice but went for Trump in 2016.

Democrat Andy Kim — a Rhodes scholar and former Obama administration official who eked by his opponent to win in 2018 — ran uncontested and will face off against either Kate Gibbs, a former Burlington County freeholder, or construction company CEO David Richter.

As of 10 p.m., Richter led Gibbs by almost a 4-to-1 ratio but only 30% of the votes had been counted.

The Gibbs-Richter race has become particularly nasty, with Gibbs calling Richter a “carpetbagger” who was initially going to run in the 2nd District race against Van Drew.

Richter has criticized Gibbs for her criminal background, noting she was arrested in 2006 for shoplifting from a Kohl’s store, faced charges for marijuana possession and drinking on a beach, and has been sued nine times for not paying her bills. Richter likened her to Jersey Shore star Snooki in campaign ads.

Another seat Republicans hope to flip back to red is in the 7th District, which Democrat Tom Malinowski won two years ago.

Tom Kean Jr., the minority leader in the state Senate and son of former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean Sr., reportedly won his primary and will be on the opposite side of the ballot facing Malinowski come November. As of 11 p.m., only 20% of the votes in the district had been counted, however.

During a webcast Tuesday evening, Malinowski took shots at Van Drew — who he is not running against — and said Kean was just interested in running for a seat and would not stand against Trump.

“We’re one election away from not thinking about elections every day,” Malinowski told supporters.

Democratic luminaries like Hoyer and Murphy threw their support behind Malinowski during the webcast. Murphy said “it’s going to be a tough race” to keep the 7th District Democratic. “This is not a lay-down hand,” he said. According to an April poll by FiveThirtyEight, Kean and Malinowski have near-equal support among voters, with 39% to 38% support respectively.

Both Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden won their respective parties’ nominations. Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, also won his primary against several contenders.

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