Six state lawmakers facing primary challenges saw their days in the Legislature numbered while 11 incumbents faced down primary challenges and were poised to return to Trenton.
In Essex County’s 28th District, Democratic Sen. Ronald Rice defeated a challenger endorsed by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Rice’s running mates, Assemblyman Craig Stanley and Assemblywoman Oadline Truitt (both D-Essex), were trailing and in danger of losing to the Booker slate.
Six-term Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo (D-Essex), facing the fight of his political life prompted by his vote last summer against Gov. Jon Corzine’s proposed budget, lost to another Booker-supported slate.
“I got steamrolled, what can I tell you. The era of the bosses is not over,” Caraballo said.
In a race for an open Republican seat, Morris Plains lawyer Jay Webber defeated former Kinnelon Councilman Larry Casha for the seat now held by Assemblyman Joe Pennachio (R-Morris). Pennachio is unopposed for the GOP nomination to succeed Sen. Robert Martin (R-Morris), who is retiring.
Of the five incumbent assemblymen who risked their careers on a chance to move up to the Senate, two were victorious, one was in a neck-and-neck race and two were defeated.
Assemblyman Guy Gregg (R-Morris), seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Robert Littell (R-Sussex), lost to Sussex County Freeholder Steve Oroho, who was running on a ticket with Littell’s daughter, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sussex).
County residence is a campaign issue in the 24th legislative district, which includes five towns in Morris County, two in Hunterdon County and all of Sussex County. Oroho argued Sussex County deserves the Senate seat, as Morris has two other senators.
In Hudson County, Democratic Assemblymen Brian Stack defeated fellow Democratic Assemblyman Silverio Vega for the seat held by Sen. Bernard Kenny, who is retiring after 20 years.
Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-Hudson) lost to Sandra Bolden Cunningham in his bid for Sen. Joseph Doria’s Senate seat. Cunningham, widow of Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, was endorsed by the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
The fractious primaries in Essex and Hudson counties left Democrats in need of “some healing,” said Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union), the Democratic State Chairman. “I think we’ve got to heal as a party in particular areas. It reflects the fact that races are local.”
A dozen veteran senators decided not to seek re-election this year, creating unprecedented opportunities for Assembly members like Gregg and Manzo to ascend to the upper house. But taking that chance precluded them from running again for their Assembly seats.
That gamble paid off for Assemblyman Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex), who won the seat Sen. Henry McNamara (R-Bergen) is giving up after 22 years in the Legislature.
Sens. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson), Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Hudson) and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) gained easy victories over challengers with minimal budgets.
Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset) and Somerset County Freeholder Denise Coyle prevailed in a three-way races to fill two Assembly seats.
Elsewhere, in the Republican primary in Middlesex County’s 18th District, Daniel Brown of East Brunswick defeated Andrew Tidd of Helmetta for the right to challenge Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex).
In the 9th Legislative District, Russell Corby won the Democratic Senate nomination in the heavily Republican district.
Assemblyman Brian Stack (D-Hudson) easily defeated fellow Assemblyman Silverio Vega (D-Hudson) in their battle to replace retiring Sen. Bernard Kenny. With 86 percent of the precincts reporting in the 33rd District, Stack, who is also mayor of Union City, had 77 percent of the vote.