Primary 2017’s Most Vulnerable GOP Incumbents

Let’s get this out of the way from the get-go, Save Jerseyans, before anyone complains:

We’re not rooting against any specific candidates OR predicting any outcomes in this post. Okay?

We’re simply pointing out the obvious: in the run up to this June’s primary election, the following five (5) candidates are the most vulnerable Republican legislators on the ballot to varying  degrees and for a variety of factors which we’ll discuss below. What does that mean? Simply put, IF any GOP legislative incumbents lose on June 6th, then they’re most likely to come from the following list compiled by our staff….


#1 – Betty Lou DeCroce (LD26 Assembly)

Saying the gas tax is unpopular among Republican primary voters is a bit of an understatement; any Republican who supported it is in danger. Some of the Senators who supported it chose not to run for re-election at all. Assemblywoman DeCroce finds herself in the uniquely poor position of having supporting the gas tax in a deep red district as well as drawing two non-incumbent opponents in a district dominated by a county (Morris) lacking a line. Our own Matt Rooney did a more in-depth analysis over here.

What sets DeCroce apart from the other candidates below, and puts her on top of our vulnerability list, is the fact she is being challenged by two-term Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon, who seems to have at least the tepid support of  uber-popular conservative Assemblyman Jay WebberDeCroce should not be counted out; she has the money and a name worth more than (most) money can buy in the district. However, at this point, she should not be considered a favorite or certainly not secure. Anything can happen.

Race Rating: Toss Up


#2 – Kevin Rooney (LD40 Assembly)

Assemblyman Rooney of Wyckoff is a quasi-incumbent having narrowly edged Wayne Municipal Chairman Mike Marotta in a special convention vote to succeed Scott Rumana a few months back. Having lost the line in his home county of Bergen admit an intra-party fight (more on that in a second), Rooney’s fate may now be tied to that of his running mate, Passaic County Clerk Kristen Corrado, a strong campaigner who nevertheless came under a blistering attack this week from gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh.

The angle? Alleged ballot shenanigans and, tangentially, the reputation of Corrado’s campaign chair and chief Passaic-based political patron, Totowa power broker and Phil Murphy backer Peter Murphy (who pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in the procedural wake of a Christie-era corruption prosecution and ensuing appeal). covered the presser.

With all of that begin said? Rooney’s still probably the second strongest of the four candidate, so he should still be considered a slight favorite to win one of two LD40 Assembly nominations along with former State Senator Norm Robertson who, for his part, is residually popular in Passaic.

Race Rating: Slight Lean Rooney


#3 – Steven Oroho (LD24 Senator)

Senator Oroho, the architect of the gas tax, should be in more danger. What separates Oroho from DeCroce is the strength of the challenge. While regional tea party leader William “Bill” Hayden provides an undeniable contrast with the incumbent, the challenger lacks the name recognition and money that the Lyon camp brings in LD26. If Hayden were to upset Oroho? It would portend a massive uprising against the gas tax, a revolution of sorts within the NJGOP’s rank-and-file and may even suggest November implications.

Race Rating: Strong Lean Oroho


#4 – Sam Thompson (LD12 Senator)

Thompson is breathing a bit easier these days since he’s on the line in what constitutes the large majority of the population of the district (Monmouth and Ocean). However, we can’t overlook the fact that he did lose his home county’s line (which is never a GOOD sign), so if Bill Layton-backed challenger Art Haney and his team can run up the numbers in his home base of Old Bridge and the Burlington portion of the district AND pick off enough voters at the Jersey Shore through direct targeting? An upset is not out of the question.

Race Rating: Lean Thompson

#5 – Rob Clifton (LD12 Assembly)

See above.

Incumbent Ronald Dancer and his running mate Assemblyman Clifton are working to fend off Chesterfield Committeeman Alex Robotin, Old Bridge Councilwoman Eleanor Debbie Walker and John Franklin Sheard in June. Clifton isn’t getting quite the same level of ferocious opposition from the Layton NJGOP faction as Thompson but, given his position as the ticket’s junior member, some level risk remains for having stayed loyal. 

Race Rating: Strong Lean Clifton