Assemblywoman Amy Handlin’s announcement that she will not seek reelection next year inevitably creates speculation on who will run to replace her. While party leaders on both sides of the aisle would rather their troops stay focused on the election coming up next month, the jockeying has started given how infrequently a vacancy occurs in the 13th district.
Democrats, who normally lose badly in the district will likely have a contest for the two Assembly nominations next year, given Handlin’s vacancy and Serena DiMaso serving her freshman term. DiMaso put something of a target on her back with the Dems when she made a robocall criticizing LD 11 Assemblymembers Eric Hougtaling and Joann Downey for voting for Governor Murphy’s tax increases. Houghtaling and Downey responded to DiMaso’s robocall with an ethics complaint.
With the Assembly on top of the ballot next year, Dems will likely be motivated and funded, even in LD 13.
Potential Democrat Candidates for LD 13 Assembly in 2019 who are running for other offices this year:
Josh Welle of Rumson and Arlington, VA: Internal polling by both Democrats and Republicans indicate that Welle is not making a dent in his race against Congressman Chris Smith in the 4th Congressional District. Despite spending over $1 million, Welle is not expected to do any better against Smith than Lorna Phillipson did in 2016. Those close to Welle expect him to move back to Virginia, where his wife works and where they own a home, after losing to Smith. He’s likely to land a job with a think tank or defense contractor. However, winning an Assembly seat as a prelude to a rematch against Smith might appeal his ego….and to Dem party leaders who would rather deal with Welle’s ego than with Jim Keady’s. Keady is already preparing a 2020 race for the Dem nomination against Smith.
Sean Byrnes served one term on the Middletown Township Committee before being defeated for reelection by now Mayor Kevin Settembrino in 2010. He ran unsuccessfully for freeholder in 2009 and for State Senate last year. This year he is running against Committeewoman Pat Snell to complete the unexpired term created by former Mayor Stephanie Murray’s resignation.
Larry Luttrell of Holmdel: Lunging Larry seems to run for office, either freeholder or Holmdel Township Committe, every year lately. Running for Assembly would be a nice change of pace. Luttrell has run against DiMaso twice and seems to relish the experience. Luttrel is running against Freeholder Gerry Scharfenberger this year.
Tom Giaimo of Middletown lost to Handlin and DiMaso in the Assembly election last year. A candidate for Middletown Board of Education this year, Giamo is part of the Middletown Dem’s plan to take over the Middletown schools. He’s the Democrat most likely to get a elected this year because he’s got the third ballot position and there are three seats on the board available.
Danielle Walsh of Middletown is a Board of Education Member who supported the realignment of Middletown Schools. She is running for Township Committee against Committee Rick Hibell to complete to unexpired term of Gerry Scharfenberger. Walsh is expected to be reappointed to the Board of Education if she loses to Hibell as Harrison Fox, one of Giamo’s running mates, is not expected to take office on the Board if he is elected. He’s a placeholder for Walsh, according to the insiders grapevine in Middletown.
Vincent Solomeno of Hazlet has a fancy website and appears to be running for something. He lost badly in his race from Monmouth County Surrogate against Rosemarie Peters in 2016 and embarrassed himself against Sue Kiley for Hazlet Township Committee last year.
Amber Lee Gesslein lives in Eatontown which is in the 11th legislative district, but she could move — again. She lost badly when she ran for Assembly in the 10th District (Ocean County) in 2013. She came in fourth in 2013 and will likely come in third this year in her race for freeholder, behind Republican Sue Kiley and Independent John Curley.
John Curley of Middletown has run for office as a Democrat, Republican and Independent. He is openly hostile to DiMaso, who he threatened to stab with a hypodermic needle. Curley, a freeholder, is expected to be out of office at the end of the year. He won’t run for the Republican nomination for Assembly because he would never again be DiMaso’s running mate (they ran for Freeholder together in 2012), but Curley could run against DiMaso and could probably win a Democrat primary in LD 13.