ELECTION 2023 RACE RATING: Once an ultimate swing district, the Boardwalk Empire now leans Republican

To tell you the truth, Save Jerseyans, we nearly put this district into the “Likely GOP” column given the fact the Democrats committed what, in this observer’s opinion, might be Election 2023’s most colossal blunder to date by swapping out their Senate candidate (more on that below).

The Second Legislative District has been the home of legendary political personalities. When the once-mighty Atlantic County-based GOP machine of Nucky Johnson atrophied, this Atlantic County district (like LD11 currently) had split partisan representation between the Senate and the Assembly for decades. 2021 put an end to that with a sweep by now-Senator Vince Polistina and Assemblymen Claire Swift & Don Guardian. So how in just two years has the ‘Boardwalk Empure’ moved from being the state’s marquee swing district to being close to a “Likely GOP” seat? A confluence of factors explain the shift.

For starters? The strength of the incumbents.

Senator Vince Polistina was an Assemblyman in this district for much of the last decade. He has deep name recognition and is a strong fundraiser as well as a close long-time ally of Atlantic GOP Chairman Don Purdy.

Assemblyman Don Guardian is a beloved former Republican mayor of Atlantic City in part because he’s one of the only former mayors of Atlantic City who didn’t end up under state or federal investigation. His strong reputation in that iconic city, coupled with the fact that Don is the only openly gay member of the GOP’s legislature caucus, means that he is a juggernaut at winning over non-traditional GOP votes for both himself and his ticket running mates. Assemblywoman Claire Swift is a former Deputy Attorney General of New Jersey and has genuine pro-law and order credentials, something that plays particularly well in an often crime-plagued Atlantic City and its suburbs amid a bail reform-fueled crime wave.

All three Republicans have leaned effectively into the pushback against offshore wind, and polling shows it’s a winning position at the Jersey Shore.

Democrats haven’t helped their own cause. Three weeks ago, they switched out their Senate candidate (a seemingly milquetoast Democrat who might’ve played well in a less friendly cycle for the GOP) for an absolute radical wingnut in Caren Fitzpatrick. Among her greatest hits: reposting a tweet comparing police officers to Nazis! So draw your own conclusions as to whether or not she’s Democrats’ best foot forward in a battleground district. Ulimately, Republicans have depleted the Democrats’ bench in Atlantic County which is probably the GOP’s primary advantage here.

Also worth noting: Polistina, Guardian and Swift sometimes side with Democrats on big votes including the FY 2024 budget. Do I like it? Hell no. Has this earned them a “pass” from Murphy allies who don’t mind seeing George Norcross’s South Jersey Democrat coalition diminish? Time will tell…

THE BOTTOM LINE: It’s very hard to envision the GOP losing any seats here in 2023 given the strength of their ticket, environmental factors, as well as the bizarre call to field Leftist lunatics as the Democrat nominees. Could this district shift into the “Likely GOP” column in our next round of rankings? Maybe, but it bears repeating that, as of September 1st, there were still over 15,000 MORE registered Democrats in LD2 than Republicans. It’ll never be “safe” for the NJGOP until that margin shrinks by at least a few thousands registrants.

Let’s look at what it would take for LD2 to move the other way into the “swing” column. In short: it would take several million dollars’ worth of spending by the Norcross/Democrat “dark money” machine, and not just between now and Election Day but in the next few weeks; they need to make big gains and fast in ordermake this district worth further investment. That’s unlikely given that Norcross Inc. is expected to spend heavily in Districts 3 and 4 where conditions are arguably more favorable (in the case of LD3, not “more favorable” so much as more alluring given the Machine’s desire for revenge and the presence of stronger Democrat challengers). There’s also the problem of HOW to attack the incumbents. As we mentioned, the GOP trio all boast strong brands and, to make a dent, Democrats would probably have to attack them from the right. You can’t do that with a candidate like Caren Fitzpatrick. All of the money in Republic Bank’s vaults couldn’t pull that off.

Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8496 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.