UPDATED: Van Drew wins, ticket split for Assembly

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 Middle’s Andrzejczak the high vote getter out of four 

Jeff Van Drew, incumbent Democratic senator, will hold his seat in the 1st Legislative District, while it looked like the numbers were split for the Assembly, with Democrat Nelson Albano falling short.

As of Wednesday morning, the Republican camp was claiming a win for Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi over Albano, whom the GOP slammed throughout the race with a series of ads casting him as “Arrogant Albano” over a letter written after being pulled over by a state trooper.

"We have been at this for a long time and we have finally broken through," said Cape May County Republican Chairman Mike Donohue.  "District One looks like it has produced the only Republican legislative pick up of 2013.” 

Contacted on Wednesday, Van Drew was not yet willing to concede the Assembly seat. He said there was still a chance that as-yet uncounted absentee ballots could swing the tight race. Van Drew won in all three counties.

There was a narrow margin between all four Assembly candidates, across Cumberland and Cape May County an in the portion of Atlantic County that falls within the 1st District. But it was clear that Middle Township local Bob Andrzejczak would keep his seat, to which he was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Matt Milam in March. He is an Army veteran who was wounded in Iraq.

Also clear was that Cape May County Republican Freeholder Kristine Gabor would not be heading to Trenton.

Donohue praised her for the tight race.  He said she was within 3 percentage points of Andrzejczak, the high vote getter in the statehouse race.

“It's a little bittersweet,” Van Drew said of his victory on Tuesday night.

He had an approximate 20-point lead over Republican challenger Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt.

One issue he wants to address during his next term as state senator is the high property taxes, something that is hurting New Jersey residents.

Adelizzi-Schmidt said she was proud of the campaign she ran, saying she feels “absolutely wonderful” about it.

“We ran an issues-oriented campaign. Jobs, economic development, high unemployment, that's been my focus. I'm proud of the campaign we ran.”

She said they ran a campaign without personal attacks, unlike Van Drew, whom she said brought his campaign to a new low.

The ads she referred to were paid for by the Fund of Jobs, Growth and Security. That political action committee is based in Washington, D.C. and planned to funnel millions into New Jersey’s local elections this year in support of Democratic candidates. Van Drew had championed running a positive campaign, and argued that he had no control over the ads run by the PAC.

She added that as the first woman to run in the district she hopes she has shown other women and minorities that they can get involved. She said change “can't just be coming from one type of person.”

Adelizzi-Schmidt plans “to look for other opportunities to serve South Jersey."

“There are future opportunities for me to get involved,” Adelizzi-Schmidt said.

It was clear that many voters split their votes between the two columns to support both Van Drew and Gov. Chris Christie, with Christie taking a second term in a landslide over challenger Barbara Buono. In Cape May County, Christie took more than 70 percent of the vote, according to unofficial numbers from the Cape May County Clerk’s office, with 25,425 to Buono’s 8,755.

With all districts in, as of 10:30 p.m., Van Drew had a strong lead in Cape May County over Adelizzi-Schmidt, 17,655 to 13,333. All tallies were unofficial as of Wednesday.

But in Cumberland County, Van Drew dominated the race. The unofficial results in Cumberland showed Van Drew with 63 percent of the vote, garnering 14,298 to 7,991 for Adelizzi Schmidt. Tom Greto, a candidate from North Cape May, trailed with 288 votes in that county. He also took 418 votes in Cape May County, and 49 in Atlantic County.

Things were closer for the Senate race in Atlantic County, which includes a small section of the 1st District. There, Van Drew took 898 votes, Adelizzi Schmidt 741.

In both Cape May and Atlantic counties, the race for Assembly was a lot closer, coming right down to the wire as the results came in through the night. The Cumberland numbers favored the Democrats, with the GOP candidates leading in Cape May County.

Unofficial results indicate a split ticket will head to Trenton come January.

Gabor, of Upper Township, and Fiocchi, narrowly took Cape May County, with more than 15,000 votes each. Albano saw 12,696 votes in Cape May County, while Andrzejczak took 14,982 in his home county.

A tally of the numbers from Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May Counties showed Andrzejczak with 28,615 votes, Fiocchi with 26,429, Albano with 25,123 and Gabor with 25,003. But those numbers remained unofficial, and no district wide count was available.

“Nothing is called and nothing is over yet," said Cape May County Republican chairman Mike Donohue late on election night. But he went on to say "you win some you lose some."

Speaking at a gathering of Republicans in Middle Township, he said it was a good night for the party because of Gov. Chris Christie’s strong win. Christie was projected the winner almost immediately after the polls closed. Many see his performance this year as a prelude to a shot at the White House in 2016.

On Wednesday, Donohue said an influx of outside money pushing for the Democrats made the election an uphill fight.

“We were outspent by about 6 to 1.  Despite that fact, we managed to capture an Assembly seat for Sam Fiocchi.  Kristine Gabor was in the hunt as well, with only 3 points separating her from the top vote getter.  This was a breakthrough election for us.  Given the amount of money that the Democrat super PAC and Sen. Jeff Van Drew threw at us, (about $2.5 million at last count) this was like navigating a typhoon on a surfboard.  At the end, Sam Fiocchi was still standing and headed for the Statehouse.”

Fiocchi said he will get to work right away.

"We don't plan on waiting until Jan 1 to get to work," he said Tuesday.

But Van Drew on Wednesday morning didn’t want to say that Fiocchi defeated Albano.

He said there are still provisional and absentee ballots that need to be counted.

Gabor said that is looking forward to finishing her term as a freeholder and that she will continue to be vocal about the issues.

“I plan to be a watchdog,” she said.

Throughout the campaign, Adelizzi-Schmidt and Van Drew sparred over the local economy, jobs, and their opponents’ campaign strategies.

Adelizzi-Schmidt, who lives in Upper Township, called attention to the eight-point economic plan she created with her running mates, Gabor and Fiocchi. The plan included strengthening communication between state and local business owners, improving infrastructure, cutting through red tape to bring businesses into the district and other points.

Van Drew and his running mates, Albano and Andrzejczak, touted the accomplishments made by the Democratic team while in office. Van Drew frequently referenced jobs in the district that he worked to save, such as preventing the closure of the Vineland Developmental Center. That work, he said, saved 1,500 jobs in Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic counties. The Democrats also stressed bipartisan cooperation with the governor, including support for Christie’s most recent budget, and efforts to expand the Economic Opportunity Act to include South Jersey as a co-sponsor of the bill.


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