New Jersey to vote in primary Tuesday

President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman, D-N.J., at the White House in Washington, Friday, June 1, 2012. (AP Photo / Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman, D-N.J., at the White House in Washington, Friday, June 1, 2012. (AP Photo / Charles Dharapak)
Posted: June 05, 2012

TRENTON — New Jersey votes Tuesday in the GOP presidential primary, but the race that has drawn President Obama’s attention recently is an ugly clash between two long-serving Democratic congressmen thrown together after the state’s congressional district map was redrawn.

Obama met Friday in the Oval Office with U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman, the first member of the state delegation to back his run for president in 2008. The two then strolled along the Rose Garden colonnade as photographers snapped pictures. The high-profile photo op gave Rothman a counterpoint to his opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, who held a get-out-the-vote rally with former President Bill Clinton on Friday in Paterson.

Clinton and Obama have weighed in on the Pascrell-Rothman race to repay favors, according to Beltway insiders. Pascrell backed Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2008.

With the GOP primary all but sewn up for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, pundits expect turnout will be relatively low statewide. Patrick Murray, a political analyst at Monmouth University, said he expects about 400,000 people to head to the polls Tuesday, less that 10 percent of eligible voters.

But Clinton’s appearance with Pascrell and Rothman’s Rose Garden walk (along with his $1.3 million cash on hand) could help drive die-hard Democrats to the polls in the new Ninth District, which includes parts of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties. Murray said Monday that he gave Pascrell the edge, saying Clinton’s appearance meant more in terms of energizing voters than did Obama’s walk with Rothman.

"A photo op in the White House ... is no match for the full-throated support of a Democratic Party Goliath," Murray wrote on his blog.

Another closely watched contest is the six-way Democratic race to replace Donald Payne Sr., the state’s only African American congressman when he died of cancer in March.

Vying for the Tenth District nomination are Payne’s son, Donald Jr., who is Newark’s council president; State Sen. Nia Gill (D., Essex); Ron Rice Jr., another Newark councilman; Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith; political neophyte Cathy Wright, a former AT&T manager; and Dennis Flynn, an Iraq War veteran.

Voters will decide who should fill the remainder of Payne’s term this year as well as who will run as the Democratic nominee in the fall. The Tenth District, which includes parts of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties, is overwhelmingly Democratic, so whoever wins the primary has an advantage heading into the November election.

In the southern part of the state, a number of incumbents face challenges Tuesday:

Francis Tenaglio, a retired social studies teacher from Haddon Township, is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews in the First Congressional District, which includes most of Camden County and parts of Gloucester and Burlington Counties.

Mike Assad, an Absecon school board member with a tea-party bent, will face Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo in the Second District, which spans six counties, including farmland, the Pine Barrens and Atlantic City.

Terrence McGowan, a former firefighter and police officer from Howell Township, is taking on Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who has represented the Fourth District for 32 years. The Fourth District includes parts of Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer Counties.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez is running unopposed. State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R., Monmouth), his party’s front-running candidate, faces three primary opponents: Bader Qarmout, a Green Township real estate investor; David Douglas Brown, an inventor from East Brunswick; and Joe "Rudy" Rullo, who owns a green-energy business in Beachwood.

In South Jersey, local contested primaries include Democrat freeholder races in Burlington and Camden Counties and sheriff and surrogate races in Gloucester County.

Contact Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237 or jfarrell@phillynews.com or on Twitter at @joellefarrell.

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