The District 2 Assembly race thus far features a deep Democratic field and only the bare minimum two candidates on the Republican side.
The only credible way to interpret this is that the Democrats know that they will be well funded and that they have a good chance to win.
Potential veteran Republican candidates have either been discouraged out of running, or do not want to run the gauntlet through a multi million dollar buzz saw campaign, which will no doubt be hyper-negative and potentially destroy lives.
You can't blame Republicans who are shy to run. Who wants to volunteer to have their life's story rewritten and endure the most dirty and vicious attacks that are sure to come.
On the Democratic side, the list of candidates is long: Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey, Former Atlantic County Surrogate Jim Carney, former Democratic Assembly nominee Colin Bell and Buena Vista Township Councilman John Armato.
Current New Jersey Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, who is the likely nominee for state Senate, has taken the unusual step of endorsing Armato prior to the Atlantic County Democratic Convention.
It's not rare for high-level incumbents to support the candidates of their choice behind the scenes. but it is unprecedented for the top of the legislative ticket to announce a favorite before the County Committee members have their chance to vote. It's disrespectful to the process. It also speaks volumes about Mazzeo's tendency to make self-inflicted errors.
Sen. Jim Whelan is ending his career on quite a role. He will likely succeed in having his hand-picked choice Damon Tyner become the next Atlantic County prosecutor. This was a "Hurley in the Morning" exclusive last week.
Whelan will also be able to name at least three new New Jersey Superior Court judges including a qualified immediate relative of Colin Bell and local attorney Joe Levin.
Should Tyner become prosecutor, Whelan will get to name a fourth new Superior Court judge. Also, well placed sources have confirmed to me that Senate President Steve Sweeney is trying to open the door for two more Superior Court judges, which our distinguished vicinage desperately needs.
The Atlantic County Republicans must be very mindful of whom they nominate to be their two Assembly candidates. Bell only missed winning an Assembly seat by 1,500 votes in 2015. He will be the most well funded Assembly candidate in the 2017 campaign.
Unless Mazzeo becomes a terminal drag above him on the ballot, Bell has a great chance to win one of the two open seats Nov. 7.
Don't count Carney out, either. He missed having 10 more years as Surrogate by a combined total of about 3,000 votes in two head-to-head elections versus Surrogate Jim Curcio.
As for Coursey, he will be running beyond the Democratic Convention regardless. If he doesn't win one of the two nominations, he promised (in a "Hurley in the Morning" exclusive) to run in a contested June primary election.
Now for the Republicans.
It's a very short story, featuring two rookies. Brigantine Councilman Vince Sera and former Margate City Commissioner Brenda Taube are the only two announced candidates.
This is unprecedented. For generations the Republican bench strength in Atlantic County has been storied and deep. This is a bizarre and dramatic departure from a rich history that dates back more than 100 years.
During this time, Dr. Joe McGahn (who delivered yours truly and identical twin Don Hurley), Steve Perskie and Jim Whelan are the few Democrats that were able to break through to win the coveted Senate seat. Combined they have held the seat for a total of 20 years. Republican legends Frank "Hap" Farley and Bill Gormley held the seat for 60 of the past 70 years.
We wrote extensively about Sen. Gormley a few weeks ago. As a personal aside, regarding Sen. Farley, I've always had a real soft spot for him. I was his Atlantic City Press paperboy for two years.
He was decent and generous. Each Christmas, Sen. Farley formally introduced me to what he called "The Hundred Dollar Handshake." He would ask me to "put your hand out" and he directly shook my hand, while placing a $100 bill for my Christmas tip. He pressed it in good and deep. I was in disbelief. I had never before seen a $100 bill.
District 2 is considered to be one of the few swing districts in the state. The composition is interesting and competitive. The breakdown is 33.5 percent Democrat and 24.4 percent Republican. However, there are more unaffiliated voters (41.7 percent) than either major political party.
In District 1, it appears that Mary Gruccio, Vineland superintendent of public schools, will challenge the widely popular Sen. Jeff Van Drew. Cumberland County Freeholder Jim Sauro is a likely Republican challenger for Assembly.
In the near future, I will share with you the latest regarding the nasty Cape May County Sheriff's race; Also, a look at the race for Atlantic City mayor and three at large council seats.