New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D), scored easy primary election victories for their party nominations Tuesday night.
Both Christie and Buono faced little-known opponents. The primary season in New Jersey was dominated largely by competitive races for the state Senate and for local and county offices. This is the first primary election New Jersey voters will see this year, with Christie calling a special primary on Aug. 13 to select candidates to run for the U.S. Senate seat of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), who died Monday.
Results show Christie defeating former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman, a tea party favorite, 92 percent to 8 percent, with 51 percent reporting. Buono defeated Troy Webster, an aide to the East Orange mayor, 88 percent to 12 percent. The two move on to a general election, with Christie leading Buono by more than 30 percentage points in polls and Buono attempting to unite fractured New Jersey Democrats.
Fourteen Democratic elected officials have endorsed Christie and divisions have formed over Buono's pick of Assemblyman Jason O'Donnell (D-Bayonne) as the new state party chairman. Three powerful Democrats -- Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, state Sen. Brian Stack and Jersey City Mayor-elect Steve Fulop -- have said they may back Christie.
The gubernatorial candidates will have several weeks to designate their running mates for lieutenant governor. Several names have circulated as a potential Buono pick, including Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley, Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, Belmar Mayor Matt Dohery and Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill. Christie has said that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will be his running mate. If Christie names Guadagno to fill Lautenberg's Senate seat, he would need to select a new running mate.
In the competitive state Senate races, state Senate President Pro Tempore Nia Gill (D-Montclair) easily defeated Mark Alexander, a former campaign aide to President Barack Obama, 65 percent to 28 percent, in her bid for the Democratic nomination for another Senate term. State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) defeated Roselle Board of Education President Donna Obe 66 percent to 34 percent, following a competitive race.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown) defeated tea party activist Leigh-Ann Bellew 79 percent to 21 percent in his primary in Monmouth County, Kyrillos, the unsuccessful GOP U.S. Senate nominee last year, is a likely candidate in this year's special Senate election.
On the county level, Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, the longest-serving sheriff in state history, easily defeated two challengers to win the Democratic primary in his bid for a 13th three-year term. In Morris County, a pair of Republican candidates opposed to the United Nations sustainability program, known as Agenda 21, were defeated in their bids for the Republican nominations for county freeholder.