Biden, Booker win in NJ's Democratic primary; state awaits other results

1010 WINS Newsroom
July 07, 2020 - 8:31 pm
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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden has won New Jersey’s mostly mail-in Democratic presidential primary, and Cory Booker has won the state's Democratic Senate primary. 

Biden faced Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the ballot Tuesday, even though Biden has accumulated enough delegates to become the party’s presumptive nominee. Booker faced primary challenger Lawrence Hamm, who was running on Sanders’ Not Me Us slogan.

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In the era of COVID-19, with so many routines upended across New Jersey, even voting got a complete overhaul. New Jersey on Tuesday held its first statewide nearly all-mail primary for president, Senate and House, though it’s unclear how quickly the results could be counted.

Voters have been mailing ballots for two weeks. But on Tuesday, in sweltering conditions, they also cast ballots at drop boxes across the state, pulling their cars up to the chest-high boxes to drop ballots down the metal chutes, or walking up to them and dropping their ballots in.

Voters had until 8 p.m. to have their ballot postmarked or dropped at one of at least five boxes per county. Or they could bring them in person by 8 p.m. to their county board of elections. Half of the polling places in each county were also required to stay open for voters to cast a ballot in person, though that meant they must use a provisional ballot that will be counted once officials determine one has not been mailed to county election officials already.

It’s unclear when results will be tallied since election boards must accept ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. on Tuesday until July 14. Voters will also have a chance to fix any issues with their signatures until July 23, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is not on the ballot this year, switched the election to mostly mail-in voting because of the coronavirus outbreak, though no decision has been made about the fall.

In most election years, voting by mail is an unremarkable event. But this year is different because President Donald Trump railed against states’ efforts to expand access to voting by mail as an alternative to waiting in lines at polling places during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The president’s concerns are being echoed by the state GOP, which has asked the U.S. attorney to install federal election monitors for the primary. The state GOP’s concerns stem from alleged election fraud cases in Paterson during the May 12 municipal election that resulted in four men facing criminal fraud charges from the state attorney general. The men, including a Paterson council member and a council member-elect, have denied wrongdoing.

Democratic and Republican voters on Tuesday expressed hope that the system would work.

Jennifer Strano, 48, is a medical office assistant student from Hamilton Township. She said she voted in her first election ever in 2016 for Trump and was casting her ballot to show support for him, even though he was uncontested.

She’s worried about how voting by mail will work, specifically, whether her vote will be counted. But she sounded hopeful.

“I’m hoping that my vote gets counted. I’m just going to have to have faith in the system that it gets through and that my voice is heard,” she said.

Shivangi Desai, 28, is a state worker from Lawrenceville. She said she preferred voting by mail and said the process was easy because voting in person means possibly missing the chance to vote if work runs late or you can’t get to the polls for another reason.

“It was really easy and I feel like if a lot of states did this, or if a lot of counties did this, it would help getting accurate vote counts,” she said.

Murphy suggested Monday that his administration would conduct a review of how the election went to help decide what to do in the fall. He also warned against any election fraud.

“We’re going to be watching very closely for any shenanigans that we hear about — any voter suppression, anybody who’s trying to job the system,” he said.

On the ballot are presidential, Senate and House candidates. Trump faced no opposition.

Republican Rik Mehta, a business executive with a law degree and a doctorate in pharmacy, has establishment support in many counties. He faces Hirsh Singh, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2017; Patricia Flanagan, of Lawrenceville; Natalie Lynn Rivera, of Merchantville; and Eugene Anagnos, of East Hanover.

The state’s 12 House districts are also hosting primaries.

Most attention has focused on two southern New Jersey districts.

In the 2nd District, Democratic candidates include former teacher and Kennedy family member Amy Kennedy. She faces political science professor Brigid Harrison and Booker aide Will Cunningham. The winner of that will most likely take on Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew in November. Van Drew left the Democratic Party this year when he opposed impeaching the president. He faces a primary challenger, Robert Patterson, of Ocean City, but is expected to win.

In the 3rd District, Republicans David Richter and Kate Gibbs are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Richter, a former executive at Hill International, had planned to run in the 2nd District when Van Drew was still a Democrat, but switched to the 3rd after Van Drew’s defection. Candidates need live only in the state, not their particular district, to become a House member.

Gibbs is a former Burlington County freeholder.