While some of the New Jersey primary races originally forecast to be slug fest sort of turned into snoozefests, Save Jerseyans, the battle in District 40 has lived up to its billing.
Moving into the final day of campaigning, Bergen County Republican Chairman Paul DiGaetano and Passaic County Clerk Kristin Corrado have shown the tenacity of an Ali v. Frazier with neither giving the other an inch. The ads and mailers have been downright savage.
We can’t you who will win tomorrow, but what can tell you what to watch for as the results come in:
1.) Wayne, Wayne, Wayne
Wayne Township (Passaic), home to 50,000 or roughly 1/5 of the district, is most likely where this race is going to won or lost. Not only is it a significant portion of voters, but it features a bloody and brutal mayoral primary complete with accusations of ballot tricks and abuses of power being thrown about. While the two mayoral candidates are buried in Rows E and F following the controversial court ruling, Council President Lonni Miller Ryan has vocally endorsed Paul DiGaetano while Mayor Chris Vergano has at least signaled his support for Corrado. Ryan has the backing of the Wayne Republican Club and the majority of the county committee, but Vergano enjoys the power of incumbency. If entire candidate runs away with it and takes their de facto running mate with them, it could be enough to counter anything else that goes on in the district. Watch Wayne closely on Tuesday night.
2.) How does the line hold in Bergen County?
Bergen County makes up approximately 40% of the district, and DiGaetano easily won both the policy committee screening and committee vote (though Corrado countered it was improperly conducted despite winning a similar process in Passaic). The Chairman looks to be on solid footing on his home turf. However, Bergen County lines are notoriously unpredictable. Kevin O’Toole won this seat in 2007 despite being off the line in Bergen; still, few candidates have overcome it. With divisive former BCRO Chair Robert Yudin anchoring the Corrado team, could DiGaetano run up enough of a margin to make Passaic County (where Corrado has the line) irrelevant? Or will Corrado find a way to over-perform, continuing her own history of winning off the line?
3.) How big is Corrado’s margin in Totowa?
Not much is certain on Tuesday, but it really isn’t going out on a limb to say Kristin Corrado is probably going to win Totowa, home base of her political patron, party boss Peter Murphy. Just how much she wins it by remains a question. Some have argued, persuasively, that the Murphy Machine in Totowa is the best and most powerful local organization in the state. Can it churn out a big enough vote total to counter a potential loss in Bergen County or even Wayne, too?
4.) The Buttimore Factor
Sometimes lost in the cacophony of battle is the third candidate, Ed Buttimore, running a largely positive campaign built on shoe leather and handshaking. Buttimore has not been attacked by either side, but he has raised a competitive amount of money and has been making the rounds and knocking doors. Buttimore hails from Cedar Grove, the sole Essex County town where Corrado has the line thanks to her strong association with retiring State Senator Kevin O’Toole and Essex GOP Chair Al Barlas. If Buttimore puts up strong numbers in his hometown?It could help DiGaetano by undercutting Corrado’s margin.
5.) Which narrative, if either, plays a bigger role: Peter Murphy’s Power or Peter Murphy’s Prison Time?
Call it the 800 pound gorilla, but Peter Murphy has been in the background of every scrap in this race. On the one hand, Murphy is a political boss in every sense of the word and a masterful political tactician. His machine in the sub-10,000 soul town turns out votes and makes a difference in the margins game. Murphy’s organization has also provided Corrado with strong financial backing and institutional support. On the other? He’s a former felon once targeted by Chris Christie for a corruption prosecution. Today? He’s a formal member of the Corrado campaign team. Will voters be willing to look past Murphy’s political corruption prison stint and elect his candidate, or will voters not be able to stomach this stink of corruption in the age of “drain the swamp”? Or will they ignore the angle altogether?