ELECTION 2023 RACE RATING: Testa’s LD1 is no longer a real swing district

We’ve made it through the toss-up and “lean” districts for our initial Election 2023 battleground district rankings, Save Jerseyans. Those are the truly competitive spots this time around; there might be surprise if some of those districts flip this year, but there should be “shock.”

I would be shocked to see LD1 change hands this year.

In fact, it was a tough decision putting New Jersey’s southernmost (Cape May/Cumberland Counties) district in the “Likely GOP” column and not “Safe GOP” pile for our initial rankings (Trump won this district by 4 points, and Ciattarelli won it by 19), but let’s not forget that this district was a toss-up four years ago and got mildly worse in redistricting with the addition of deep blue Bridgeton.

If somehow a Democrat wave developed this year, albeit unlikely? This district’s numbers aren’t red enough to withstand any tide.

Still, it’d have to be a pretty friggin’ massive wave to disrupt the current chess board.

There’s now almost 5,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in this sprawling, working class rural district which is home to gritty small-sized cities, pastoral farm communities, recent retirees, outdoor sportsmen aplenty, Hispanic migrants, card-carrying union members and Jersey Shore small business owners. It’s a perfect cross-section of the Trump realignment coalition, and it’s no coincidence that Congressman Jeff Van Drew – prior to his much-covered party switch in December 2019 – represented this district for many years in the legislature as Trenton’s last true Blue Dog Democrat. If demographics is destiny, then it was probably only a matter of time.

Twelve years after Republicans got swept out here in 2007, Senator Mike Testa and Assemblymen Erik Simonsen and Antwan Mclellan scored a major upset victory over the incumbent Democrat slate in 2019 (a Stockton poll showed him down 14, yet Testa crushed the incumbent by 7). The Republican slate was easily reelected in 2021.

The ultimate indicator of how far this district has come: Testa’s 2023 general election opponent is reportedly ghosting his own campaign. Testa almost ran uncontested when a GOP challenge fell short of invalidating some of the Democrat candidate’s small pile of petition signatures.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Barring a massive change in the political environment or an unlikely infusion of dark money (an unlikely scenario, since Norcross Inc. is throwing everything at LD3 and LD4 at the moment and the LD1 Democrat nominee is AWOL), don’t be shocked if we nudge LD1 into the “safe” column in our early October rankings.


Matt Rooney
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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.