N.J. primaries primer: Republicans hope to make gains in Legislature

Gun Rights

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Voters in New Jersey on Tuesday will be casting a ballot in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

Democrats control the state Legislature, but Republicans are hoping to gain ground.

Voters who spoke to CBS2 on Monday said even though this is a primary election, they care about the issues.

“There is a lot of inequality that needs to be addressed systemically, besides race and gender and things like that,” said a woman named Veronica from Hasbrouck Heights.

“I think the problem with the country right now is that everybody is either too far left and everyone is too far right. There is no longer an ability to have a political discussion,” added Suzanne Rajsteter of Tewksbury.

READ MOREPrimary election guide for voters in New Jersey

Democrats have controlled the Legislature in New Jersey for nearly two decades, but Republicans believe there is a real chance to at least gain control of Assembly.

“I am sure that they are confident and will tell you otherwise, but I am very confident that won’t be the case,” John McKeon said.

McKeon is former governor and state Sen. Richard Codey’s running mate. Their district has been redrawn and Codey faces Sen. Nia Gill in the primary. Codey’s spokesperson told CBS2 he has had health issues but is doing better and looks forward to continuing to serve.

“I’ve got every confidence that Gov. Codey, based on his reputation, his hard work, his prowess with mental health, will be there for the next four years,” McKeon said.

In the 26th Legislative District, a Republican stronghold, incumbent state Sen. Joe Pennacchio and his challenger are bickering over who has the most conservative record.

Pennacchio says the National Rifle Association endorsed him, but added his challenger, Tom Mastrangelo, a county commissioner, is pretending he’s the candidate the organization has endorsed.

“He didn’t say they are endorsing me, but he told everybody what a great NRA supporter he is,” Pennacchio said.

“I never claimed the NRA was backing me. The only thing we claimed was that my rating is AQ,” Mastrangelo said.

In all, there are only 18 contested legislative primaries — most on the Republican side, which is why races these races are so heated.

Because there is no Republican challenger in the Codey-Gill race, the primary winner is expected to take the seat.

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