The idea that State Senator Joe Kyrillos and Assembly Members Amy Handlin and Declan O’Scanlon could be defeated by their Tea Party challengers, Leigh-Ann Bellew for Senate and Edna Walsh and Stephen Boracchia for Assembly, in the June 4 primary is unthinkable, even laughable, to many Monmouth County Republicans.
But recent history and a look at the numbers indicate that an upset with statewide consequences could very well be in the making if the challenge is not taken seriously.
With only nominal competition in the governor’s race, voter turnout in the Republican primary on June 4 is likely to be very low. Therein lies the danger for the incumbents. Even “good Republicans” rarely vote in primaries. Even fewer if there is no perceived competition.
There are 34,216 registered Republicans in the 13th district. In the 2011 primary, the last time the legislature was on the ballot, only 2,274 Republicans voted. The challengers know that.
“This is a dangerous district for ‘the establishment’ in a primary, one high ranking Republican told MoreMonmouthMusings, “in 2010,Diane Gooch lost the district (to Anna Little) and Sheriff Shaun Golden lost Middletown to Dan Peters by 200 votes. Golden won the 2010 primary because of support from the rest of the county.”
“Leigh-Ann Bellew is not Anna Little and Joe Kyrillos is not Diane Gooch,” said another high ranking Republican who considers the primary challenge little more than an annoyance, “Joe, Amy and Declan have great records and have helped a lot of people. They will do just enough to win.”
If the latter attitude prevails amongst the Monmouth GOP and the incumbents, there could well be an upset on June 4. If they do nothing, or “just enough” the incumbents are leaving themselves vulnerable. Getting 3,ooo – 5,ooo “new” primary voters to come out is not out of the realm of possibility for the BTPG and their candidates.
The county candidates, Sheriff Shaun Golden and Freeholders Tom Arnone and Serena DiMaso, are far less vulnerable than Kyrillos, Handlin and O’Scanlon. The Bayshore Tea Party Group and the candidates they are supporting on focused on the 13th district. The challenging freeholder candidates told the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission that they intend to spend less than $4500 on their campaigns. Waging a countywide campaign is an expensive and exhausting endeavor for the unknown freeholder challengers, Brian Largey and Ed Pekarsky. They aren’t really trying, beyond the 13th. Dan Peters, Golden’s second time challenger, is raising money, but he too is focusing most of his efforts in the 13th.
Compounding the challenge for the incumbents is that the weeks leading up to the primary are the busy season in Trenton. The Legislature closes shop in the summer and doesn’t go back to work until after election day, in order that incumbents can spend their time on the campaign trail. That doesn’t happen during primary season. The legislature is busy between now and June 30 when the state budget is due. There will be voting sessions and committee meetings requiring Kyrillos, Handlin and O’Scanlon to be in Trenton.
The challengers and BTPG volunteers have been going door to door for weeks. They are motivated. The incumbents are annoyed. They consider the time and money they will have to spend winning their nominations as resources that would be better spent on winning Democratic seats elsewhere in the state.
An upset could happen.