- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - State Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman won a battle of state lawmakers in New Jersey’s 12th District Congressional primary Tuesday, making it all but certain that the state will have its first woman in Congress in 12 years.

Watson Coleman defeated Sen. Linda Greenstein, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula and scientist Andrew Zwicker in the Democratic primary for the central New Jersey seat. Physician Alieta Eck was unopposed in the Republican primary in the heavily Democratic district where Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat, decided not to seek re-election.

The last woman to represent New Jersey in Congress was Republican Marge Roukema, who retired in 2003.

At the top of New Jersey’s ticket was a Republican U.S. Senate primary won by Jeff Bell, who also won a Senate primary in 1978 and has spent most of the last 30 years working as a policy consultant in Washington D.C. He moved back to New Jersey earlier this year to run for the Senate against Cory Booker, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Bell’s campaign is built on supporting an end to the Federal Reserve’s zero-interest rate policy, saying interest rates need to be raised to stimulate borrowing for job-creating small businesses. He also wants the dollar to return to the gold standard.



He said it’s a message that is resonating with voters, even though few candidates are talking about it. And he said it can help him gain ground against Booker. “He doesn’t have a solution to the economy,” Bell said in an interview with The Associated Press. “People are not just upset about the economy, they’re puzzled by it.”

Bell narrowly defeated computer consultant Richard Pezzullo in a race that also included first-time candidate Brian Goldberg and business professor Murray Sabrin.

Pezzullo’s campaign manager, Howie Morgan, said late Tuesday that Pezzullo did not intend to concede and believes he will be helped by mail-in ballots that have not yet been counted in some counties. In New Jersey, candidates can call for voting machine results to be re-tabulated and paper ballots to be recounted.

No big-name Republicans stepped forward for the opportunity to be a heavy underdog in a race against U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, the former Newark mayor who won a special election last year to complete the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker was unopposed on the Democratic side.

The last Republican elected to the Senate from New Jersey was Clifford Case, who served four terms before losing a primary in 1978. Bell was the candidate who defeated him.

The congressional race expected to be the most competitive in the fall is the 3rd District, where former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur defeated former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in a GOP primary matchup of two northern New Jersey politicians who moved to the district to run.

“I want to assemble a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independents who may not agree on every single issue, but realize we are all in this together and the only way to strengthen our nation and secure a brighter future is to find common ground,” MacArthur told supporters, according to a prepared version of his victory speech.

MacArthur, a former insurance executive, outspent Lonegan $2 million to $800,000. Nearly all of MacArthur’s money was his own while Lonegan contributed $300,000 to his own campaign.

“We may have lost tonight, but the fight for our conservative values continues,” Lonegan said in a statement.

MacArthur will face Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, who easily won a three-way Democratic primary and has the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commission.

The current congressman, former Philadelphia Eagle Jon Runyan, a Republican, is not seeking re-election in the district that cuts across the center of the state from the Philadelphia suburbs to the shore.

In another contested congressional primary, the brother of the state’s most powerful Democratic powerbroker took a step toward taking the seat in the heavily Democratic 1st District.

Sen. Donald Norcoss, the brother of insurance executive George Norcross, will face Republican and former Philadelphia Eagle Garry Cobb in the fall. Norcross beat two rivals, including Logan Township Mayor Frank Minor, for a chance at the suburban Philadelphia seat. The seat had been held for more than two decades by Rep. Rob Andrews, who resigned in February.

Cobb emerged from a four-candidate GOP primary and took aim at the Norcross brothers in his victory speech. “The Norcross political machine believes they can pick and choose our elected officials at will,” he said.

Republican Reps. Frank LoBiondo in the 2nd District, Leonard Lance in the 7th, and Rodney Frelinghuysen in the 11th and Democrat Donald Payne Jr. in the 10th will all be on the ballots in the November general election after easily fending off primary challenges.

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