ELECTION 2023 RACE RATING: Ed the Trucker’s district is “Lean GOP” despite Team Sweeney’s deep pockets

Our district-by-district analysis of Election 2023’s big battlegrounds moves south on I-295 this morning, Save Jerseyans…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you don’t need an introduction to “Ed the Trucker” who famously ousted Senate President Steve Sweeney from his 3rd Legislative District perch with a few hundred dollars and plenty of shoe leather back in 2021. Now-Senator Durr’s rare electoral feat earned him the attention of national media as well as a personal phone call from Donald Trump himself. More to the point, thanks in part to Tucker Carlson, Durr now has a brand in South Jersey which is worth its weight in gold.

So why is his Deep South Jersey district (one which Trump won narrowly and Jack Ciattarelli won by a whopping 16 points) only a “Lean GOP” seat and not a “Likely” or “Safe” one?

Simple: Sweeney, his patron George Norcross III, and the Democrat Machine want revenge and are trying to claw back some of their lost regional power even if they have to pay handsomely in the attempt. They can be expected to spend extremely heavily here, and it’s likely that they’ll implement some tactics and messaging which they curiously kept in the hangar back in 2021. Durr and his running mates have massive targets on their backs. What’s more, Durr is a notoriously lax fundraiser who doesn’t enjoy the traditional mechanics of campaigning.

But there’s a big problem with the Democrats’ well-funded electoral assault: while hellbent on reclaiming these LD3 seats, the Machine curiously dusted-off former Assemblyman John Burzichelli to run against Durr. Burzichelli is a textbook career politician with a ponderous far-Left voting history who lost his Assembly seat here two years ago when Durr took down Sweeney; the ex-Assemblyman was widely perceived as being a Murphy rubber stamp and puppet for Sweeney, and both perceptions have the benefit for Republicans of being true. What’s changed in the former Democrat legislator’s favor two relatively short years later? Nothing that I can report!

The direct Durr vs. Burzichelli match-up tilts in the GOP’s favor. Brusque and rough around the edges with a history of less-than-optimal social medial usage, Durr is admittedly one of those “love him or hate him” type figures. The Republican establishment is embarrassed by him, and he wouldn’t play well at an LD21 country club fundraiser. His supporters don’t want polish nor do they trust it. They’re looking for authenticity. Sound familiar? As far as we can tell, most of the Republican senator’s constituents come down on the side of loving him heading into his first reelect or, at the very least, they strongly relate to his worldview. “Ed the Trucker” connects with rural and working class voters, and LD3 is the quintessential rural, working class district. It’s a perfect marriage.

THE BOTTOM LINE: While Burzichelli is certainly no slouch in the campaign arena (he got elected and reelected to the Assembly in this district every two years like clockwork for decades), LD3 measurably improved for Republicans in redistricting and Democrats can’t rely on the typical South Jersey Machine “shock and awe” strategy. They may also be forced to reconsider their LD3 investment as the fall grinds on if Republicans make tangible headway elsewhere on the battleground map (e.g. LD4). We’re fully expecting to see Durr and his Assembly running mates Bethanne McCarthy Patrick and Tom Tedesco (who took the place of Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer after she bolted the ticket back in the Spring and then got destroyed by Durr in the primary) hold these seats for Team GOP even if the September-October air war unsettles a Republican slate that was largely ignored – to the Democrats’ detriment – last time around…

Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8152 Articles
MATT ROONEY is SaveJersey.com's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.