TRENTON – Congressional primaries hewed closely to conventional wisdom in New Jersey on Tuesday, with incumbents turning back challengers as Republicans aimed to choose nominees that can help them claw back more seats in the House of Representatives lost to Democrats over the past decade.

We will be updating live results for selected races below.

Thirty-six Republicans appeared on the primary ballot across the 12 House districts today, which was interpreted by some as a sign of continued enthusiasm building on the party’s gain in state legislative elections last year.

But that hasn’t been reflected among those who participated in early voting, either by mail or at in-person sites where people were able to vote Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Early voters included 196,146 Democrats and 62,338 Republicans, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

Currently, there are 10 Democrats and two Republicans in the congressional delegation from New Jersey, along with two Democratic senators, Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.

Crowded GOP field in 7th District

Seven Republicans sought the nomination in the 7th District, which after changes from redistricting represents the party’s best pickup opportunity in November. Tom Kean Jr. nearly doubled the votes of his closest rival in defeating Kevin Dorlon, John Flora, John Henry Isemann, Erik Peterson, Phil Rizzo and Sterling Schwab.

Rep. Tom Malinowski easily overcame a challenge in that district’s Democratic primary from Roger Bacon. That sets up a rematch with Kean, the former state Senate minority leader, of the 2020 race that Malinowski won by around 1 percentage point.

Malinowski also accepted the nomination of a new group calling itself the Moderate Party, a group of Republicans disaffected by their party's direction, which aims to create 'fusion voting' in New Jersey by allowing candidates to run in multiple parties on the same ballot. It's not allowed by state law, and Malinowski concedes it will take legislative or judicial action for the gambit to be allowed.

Long-term Republican challenged

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith won the nomination for his 22nd term in Congress, defeating three other Republicans on the ballot in the 4th District – Mike Blasi, Mike Crispi and Steve Gray – despite former President Donald Trump calling for Smith’s defeat after he voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Matthew Jenkins is the Democratic nominee in the state’s most solidly Republican district.

Strongest contender in 3rd District?

Republicans in the 3rd District were choosing between Nicholas Ferrara, Bob Healey and Ian Smith to challenge Rep. Andy Kim, who easily overcame a challenge from Reuven Hendler in the Democratic primary.

Healey was the party establishment's preferred choice and led throughout the night, winning by around 14 percentage points as of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Smith first gained wide attention for defying state orders to close his gym early in the pandemic.

Who will face congresswoman in 11th District?

Rep. Mikie Sherrill faced no opponents in the Democratic primary in the 11th District, but five Republicans were competing to be her challenger in November: Toby Anderson, Paul DeGroot, Alexander Halter, Ruth McAndrew and Tayfun Selen. DeGroot had overtaken Selen and was ahead by about 4 percentage points as of 6:30 a.m.

Centrist congressman challenged

Rep. Josh Gottheimer faced no primary opposition in the 5th District, despite often frustrating progressives as one of the most centrist Democrats in Congress. Republicans had four options in choosing his challenger: Nick De Gregorio, Frank Pallotta, Fred Schneiderman and Sab Skenderi. Votes were very slow to be reported initially, but Pallotta was leading by nearly 5 percentage points as of 6:30 a.m.

Is 10th District Democrat in trouble?

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. faced two Democrats in the 10th District primary and took the challenge from Imani Oakley and Akil Khalfani seriously, but he was declared the winner and had around 84% of the vote as of 6:30 a.m. Republicans chose David Pinckney, who had 83% of the primary vote. It’s the district with the largest Democratic voter advantage in New Jersey.

Other races in New Jersey

In the 1st District, incumbent Rep. Donald Norcross defeated Mario DeSantis in the Democratic primary, with around 78% of the vote. Claire Gustafson captured the Republican nomination with 69% of the vote, easily outdistancing Damon Galdo.

In the 2nd District, Rep. Jeff Van Drew won renomination with 86% of the vote against two Republican challengers: John Barker and Sean Pignatelli. Democratic voters chose Tim Alexander as their nominee, after he topped Carolyn Rush with 62%.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. faced no opposition in the Democratic primary in his quest for an 18th term in the 6th District. On the Republican side, Susan Kiley defeated Rik Mehta and Thomas Toomey in the primary; she had 57% of the vote as of 6:30 a.m.

The 8th District is the one open seat in the state, as Rep. Albio Sires opted against seeking another term though is reportedly considering running for West New York mayor, an office he once held. Democrats chose Robert Menendez Jr., the son of the state’s senior senator, with 84% of the vote, over David Ocampo Grajales and Ane Roseborough-Eberhard. Republicans are nominating Marcos Arroyo.

The 9th District matchup was set at the April filing deadline – and is a rematch of the 2020 race, in which Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. got 66% to 32% for Republican Billy Prempeh.

Similarly, the 12th District contest was locked in when each party had just one candidate file at the April deadline. Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman will face Republican challenger Darius Mayfield.

Third-party candidates on Nov. ballot

The Libertarian Party filed a full slate of 12 House candidates – almost unheard of for one of New Jersey’s third parties, which typically field nominees in a few races but not all of them. Two candidates from the Socialist Workers Party also filed petitions to run in November, as did 20 independents.

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Every district will have at least one third-party or independent candidate, presuming those who filed survive any legal challenges to the signatures on their petition.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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Where NJ's 'red wave' of the 2021 election was reddest

In 2017, Gov. Phil Murphy won the election by 14.1 percentage points, a margin exceeding 303,000. His re-election was much closer, an 84,000-vote, 3.2-point victory. He and others talked about a ‘red wave’ of Republican voters in the electorate, and certified results show which counties turned red most.

2022 primary for U.S. House elections in New Jersey

The filing deadline for candidates to run in the June 7, 2022 primary was Monday, April 4.

Sixty-three candidates met the filing deadline, including 41 Republicans and 22 Democrats, but some petitions were ultimately disqualified because they didn't have the required 200 signatures from eligible voters in their political party who reside in the district.

In total, there are 56 candidates: 36 Republicans and 20 Democrats. A few have recently suspended their campaigns but will remain on the ballot.

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