Last night’s results in the June 5 primary showed Robert Menendez, the Democratic incumbent, having won 258,042 votes, or 62.13 percent of all Democratic state voters.
He lost a third of the vote to newspaper publisher Lisa McCormick, his chief Democratic rival, who garnered 157,263 votes, along with the majority vote in several counties. Menendez next faces a tough fight from GOP nominee and pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin.
The primary tally drew comments at the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics’ “The Morning After” panel event Wednesday at Rutgers-New Brunswick.
“If there was a real competitive Democratic primary, if the party allowed a more established candidate to run a more vigorous challenge against Menendez, what would that outcome be?” Bergen Record Columnist Charles Stile mused.
McCormick lacked an extensive campaigning apparatus, noted another panelist, political strategist Judith Roginsky.
“Lisa McCormick didn’t run an ad, she didn’t appear anywhere, she didn’t hold any press conferences,” Roginsky said.
Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican State Assemblyman who lost his seat in the 2017 election, said Menendez’s and McCormick’s performances don’t matter much.
“A great many people didn’t vote for him to send a message but intend to vote for him in November,” Ciattarelli said. “[Menendez’s] total tally still exceeds the total number of Republican voters in yesterday’s tally.”
Kelly Dittmar, a scholar the Center for American Women in Politics, said McCormick’s main problem was lack of party backing.
“In New Jersey, having the backing of the party is so much more significant than in other states, in many cases preventing newcomers from getting that early support, from getting the line,” Dittmar said.