NJ incumbents Durr, Codey fend off primary challenges
TRENTON — Fending off a conservative rival and fellow incumbent just two years after he won a surprise victory against the powerful Democratic Senate president, Republican state Sen. Ed Durr defeated his former running mate in Tuesday's primary. On the Democratic side, Sen. Dick Codey, with nearly five decades of legislative experience, won against incumbent Sen. Nia Gill.
Their victories mean they'll be their parties' candidates on the ballot in November.
Durr will face former Assembly member John Burzichelli, who lost along with Senate President Steve Sweeney in 2021. Codey doesn't have a Republican challenger since none have filed to run in that district.
Durr worked as a furniture delivery truck driver when he shocked the state in 2021 by defeating Sweeney, spending a minuscule amount of campaign money compared with other contests.
Durr's victory Tuesday came against Assembly member Beth Sawyer in southern New Jersey's 3rd Legislative District, not far from Philadelphia. Sawyer, a real estate broker, was his running mate in 2021.
In New Jersey, candidates from the same party typically run as part of a joint ticket in their district, even if they’re seeking different seats. As a team in 2021, Durr and Sawyer swept the Democrats who held the Senate seat and two Assembly seats, helping the GOP net seven seats.
Codey's victory came in northern New Jersey's 27th Legislative District. Codey served as governor from November 2004 until January 2006 and has been in the state Senate since 1982. He served in the Assembly from 1974 to 1981.
Gill has been in the Senate since 2002 and was a candidate for Senate president after Sweeney's defeat in 2021, losing her longshot bid to Sen. Nicholas Scutari.
Endorsing Codey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy called him a “hardworking and dedicated” public servant.” Murphy didn’t mention Gill, a fellow Democrat with whom he’s previously agreed on legislation including bills to tighten the state’s gun laws.
LeRoy Jones, the Democratic State Party chairman, congratulated Codey and said he looked forward to working with him “to deliver progress” for the district. He also praised Gill, who he said had shown dedication throughout her career.
In other races, every incumbent state senator — except Gill — and Assembly member in a contested primary won their contest, including Democratic senators Joe Vitale and Joe Cryan and Republican Joe Pennacchio.
The Republican Assembly primary in northwestern New Jersey's 24th District remained uncalled late Tuesday.
Tuesday was Primary Day, but it wasn't the only day ballots were cast. In-person voting was held over the weekend and mail-in ballots have available to voters who prefer them for weeks.
New Jersey has no statewide races on the ballot this year, although both chambers of the Democrat-led Legislature are up for grabs in the November election.
Democrats have a 46-34 advantage in the Assembly and a 25-15 margin in the Senate, but control won’t be decided until November.
This year’s primary stands out because of just the handful of contested races.
Before polls closed Tuesday, some 250,000 ballots had been cast, according to the secretary of state’s office. That was about half of the number of ballots cast in the June 2019 primary, the last time that just the Legislature was on the ballot.