The existing map was drawn up and first used in 2011, but it will be kept around a bit longer than planned. Last year, voters passed a constitutional amendment backed by legislative Democrats that required the state to use the current legislative boundaries for the 2021 elections if New Jersey did not receive census data required for redistricting by Feb. 15, which is exactly what ended up happening. (The Virginia House of Delegates, where we’ve previously released 2020 election data will also hold this year’s elections using its 2011 map.)
Now, to the numbers. Joe Biden won New Jersey by a wide 57-41 margin, which allowed him to carry 29 legislative districts compared to 11 for Donald Trump. Team Blue similarly enjoys a 52-28 edge in the Assembly and a 25-15 majority in the Senate, though as we’ll discuss, Republicans hold considerably more crossover seats heading into this year’s elections.
It’s hard to believe now, but the GOP went into the 21st century with majorities in each chamber which, along with their control of the governor’s mansion, gave them the legislative trifecta. It wasn’t much longer before things began to sour for Republicans, however: Democrats flipped the Assembly as well as the governorship in 2001, while both parties worked out a power-sharing agreement after they tied in the Senate. Team Blue took outright control of the upper chamber just two years later and has never looked back, despite GOP victories in both the 2009 and 2013 gubernatorial elections.
We’ll start with the Assembly, where each district currently sends either two Democratic members or two Republicans to Trenton. (The last time any constituency split its vote and elected one Democrat and one Republican was 2015.) Altogether, eight Republicans represent Biden turf, while two Democrats hail from Trump districts.
The bluest GOP-held seat is LD-21, a constituency that’s home to portions of Morris, Somerset, and Union counties in the New York City area. Mitt Romney prevailed 52-47 here in 2012, but this is one of the many suburban seats across the nation that dramatically swung to the left at the top of the ticket during the Trump era: Hillary Clinton carried the district 53-43 in 2016, while Biden took it 58-40 last year. That transformation, though, hasn’t quite taken hold down the ballot. Minority Leader Jon Bramnick took first with 26% of the vote in his last race in 2019, while Minority Whip Nancy Muñoz beat out her Democratic foe 25-24 for the second seat.
The only Democratic-held Trump seats, meanwhile, are both in LD-03, a South Jersey constituency that has moved in the opposite direction. Barack Obama won by a solid 55-44 margin in 2012 only for Trump to prevail 50-46 four years later, and Trump took it again in 2020, albeit by a smaller 50-48 margin. But as in LD-21, Democrats have held out down the ballot: Assemblyman John Burzichelli won 28% in 2019 as fellow incumbent Adam Taliaferro beat his nearest GOP rival 27-23.
We’ll turn to the Senate, where five Republicans hail from Biden seats while LD-03 is again the one Democratic-held Trump seat. That Democrat is Steve Sweeney, the powerful longtime Senate president who has spent much of his career infuriating many in his party. In 2017, the last time Sweeney was on the ballot, the New Jersey Education Association even took the unusual step of backing his Republican opponent, but that didn’t stop the incumbent from winning a very expensive campaign 59-41.
The bluest GOP-held Senate seat, conversely, is LD-16, a four-county seat that, depending on whom you ask, is entirely located in Central Jersey or North Jersey. (Central Jersey’s very existence remains a controversial topic in some circles, with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy once dubbing it “a little bit of a mystical kingdom—kind of like Camelot.” Murphy, though, later unequivocally tweeted, “As Governor of the Great State of New Jersey, I hereby declare that CENTRAL JERSEY DOES EXIST.”)
This constituency supported Obama 53-45 in 2012, and it’s only gotten more Democratic since then: Clinton won 55-41 here, while Biden took it in a 60-38 landslide last year. Longtime Republican state Sen. Christopher Bateman held on 50.5-49.5 in 2017, but his retirement gives Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker a good opportunity to flip the seat for Team Blue. Zwicker’s GOP foe is former one-term Rep. Michael Pappas, who earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, “Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr / Now we see how brave you are.”
The GOP is also defending another open seat, the nearby and aforementioned LD-21. This constituency is held by Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who lost a tight 2020 race in the 7th Congressional District to Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski. Kean, however, decided against seeking reelection in order to focus on a rematch with Malinowski. The GOP is fielding Bramnick, while Democrats are running Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello.
A total of three legislative districts also are represented by a senator from one party and a pair of assemblymembers from the other. LD-02, a 55-44 Biden constituency, in South Jersey’s Atlantic County, elected Republican state Sen. Chris Brown as well as Democratic Assemblymembers Vincent Mazzeo and John Armato. Brown, though, resigned this summer to take a post in Murphy’s administration, and Republicans appointed former Assemblyman Vince Polistina to replace him. This fall, Polistina will go up against Mazzeo, who is seeking a promotion. LD-16, where Bateman is retiring, is similarly situated.
The only district with a Democratic senator and two GOP assemblymembers is LD-08, where state Sen. Dawn Addiego switched parties to join the Democrats a little more than a year after winning reelection as a Republican. Addiego faces GOP Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield this fall for this South Jersey seat that supported Biden 53-46.
There’s one other unusual aspect of New Jersey politics we’ll discuss. It used to be fairly common for legislators to simultaneously hold local municipal office, a practice known locally as “double dipping.” The legislature passed a 2007 law ending this going forward, but it allowed any affected incumbents to keep both posts as long as voters continued to reelect them to each. Four Democratic legislators, all of whom are running again this year, remain in both posts, including state Sen. Brian Stack, who is also the mayor of Union City and an important powerplayer in Hudson County.
Oh, as for Asbury Park? It’s located in LD-11, which voted 55-43 for Biden. The Boss is well-known as a vocal champion of the Democratic Party, so if a seat opens up one day, maybe he was indeed born to run …
P.S. Since publishing our presidential results for New Jersey’s congressional districts earlier this year, we’ve received information from Essex County that has allowed us to release more precise calculations for the 8th, 10th, and 11th Districts. The 10th shifted from 82.8-16.4 Biden to 84.2-15.0 Biden, while the 8th similarly moved from 73.1-25.9 Biden to 71.8-27.2 Biden. The 11th, which is the most competitive of this trio, had the smallest change, going from 52.9-45.8 Biden to 52.7-46.0 Biden.