New Jersey

Hugin, Menendez to Face Off in New Jersey U.S. Senate Race; Democrats See Chance to Pounce on Longtime GOP House Seats

One departing lawmaker leaves open the House seat covering much of southern New Jersey.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and first-time politician Bob Hugin will face off in November after both won their primaries Tuesday.

Bob Hugin defeated construction company executive Brian Goldberg. Hugin ran Celgene Corp. until this year and is a first-time candidate spending millions of dollars of his own fortune to finance his race.

He'll need to overcome a nearly 900,000-vote advantage that the Democratic Party holds over Republicans statewide.

Menendez is seeking a third six-year term. He beat out business owner Lisa McCormick in the primary.

In the races for New Jersey's 12 congressional districts, Democrats see a golden opportunity this year to grab two congressional seats long held by centrist Republicans. Both are retiring.

Frank LoBiondo of South Jersey's sprawling 2nd district and Rodney Freylinghuysen of North Jersey's 11th district previously announced they would not seek re-election.

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew won the Democratic primary in the 2nd district. He will face off against former Atlantic City Councilman and Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman, who won the Republican primary, in what will be a closely-watched race nationally. The 2nd district stretches from the southern Jersey shore to the Delaware River.

Click here for the continuously updated voting results in key contests throughout the evening.

New Jersey is one of eight states that held primaries Tuesday. The contests along party lines went largely as expected in the U.S. Senate and House races, as party-endorsed candidates performed well at the polls.

One of the state's two New Jersey senators is also up for re-election, and his lot is a decidely mixed one. Incumbent Bob Menendez is still recovering from recent legal troubles (he was found not guilty at a federal corruption trial). 

Hugin's entrance into the race buoyed Republicans, who've been on a downswing in statewide politics since Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy won last year.

The 2018 mid-term election will largely be a referendum on President Trump's first two years in the White House, and how the Republican-controlled Congress has worked with him. Even in one of the country's bluest states like New Jersey, Democrats hope to gain ground on their Republican rivals. 

Nationally, Democrats need to wrestle 24 seats back from Republicans if they want to take back control of the chamber, and operatives have their sights firmly set on those two open seats in the Garden State.

Democrats hold a 2.1 million to 1.2 million registered voter advantage over Republicans. But most of the nearly 900,000 more Democrats are grouped into six very blue districts: the 1st, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th.

These things are usually easier said than done: Despite the overwhelming edge in the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans, five of the state's 12 congressional districts are held by Republicans.

Democrats hold a 2.1 million to 1.2 million registered voter advantage over Republicans. But most of the nearly 900,000 more Democrats are grouped into six very blue districts: the 1st, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th.

The other six districts are near toss ups.

However, another 2.4 million voters either unaffiliated or registered with smaller political parties will have their chance to cast ballots in November.

Hugin, a native of Hudson County, graduated from Princeton University before entering the Marine Corps in 1976. He served for eight years. After earning a master’s degree in business from Virginia University, he went to work at J.P. Morgan. Over the years, he rose to managing director.

In 1999, he took over as chairman and CEO of a large pharmaceutical company called Celgene, based in Summit. 

Hugin retired this year and is a first-time candidate He says he's running as an independent Republican in a state with roughly 900,000 more Democrats than Republicans.

Hugin has loaned his campaign at least $7.5 million and has pledged to restore dignity to the state. That's a ding at Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who defeated federal corruption charges after a hung jury last year and wants a third term.

In other Philadelphia-area races, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, who has represented the 1st district for two terms, won his Democratic primary, and Joshua Welle won the Democratic primary in the 4th congressional district, where he'll face off against 19-term Republican Chris Smith.

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