The 2019 elections, despite being an off-year for much of the country, yielded meaningful results for the state of New Jersey and for local races in and around Princeton, N.J.
This year, Princeton residents voted on races for the New Jersey General Assembly, the Mercer County Executive, the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Princeton Town Council, and the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education. Residents were also asked a public question regarding the allocation of veterans’ benefit funds.
Polling took place at the Carl Icahn Laboratory, which was open for voters from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day.
Incumbent Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman were re-elected to the NJ General Assembly as members of the 16th district with 42.72 percent and 40.76 percent of the vote, respectively.
“It’s a real honor to represent the University and the entire 16th legislative district,” Zwicker said.
A member of the state legislature’s Science, Innovation, and Technology Committee, Zwicker says he plans to focus his next term on issues of digital privacy. “So much of our [lives] is digital right now, and so my committee is going to focus on how we protect people, and how we balance the fact that our lives are online versus who controls and who owns our data.”
Zwicker also expressed interest in issues of environmental protection and access to voting: “I’m gonna continue to work on environmental protection and make sure New Jersey is a leader in the climate crisis. My other big thing is around access to voting … making sure young people [come] out to vote, and doing everything we can to take all this dark money out of politics.”
“That’s all in the first week,” Zwicker joked.
Zwicker and Freiman ran against Republican challengers Mark Caliguire and Christine Madrid. Neither were available for comment at the time of publication.
The Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the seven-member legislative body responsible for budget creation and county affairs, held elections for two of its seats this year.
Democrats Andrew Koontz and Nina Melker, both incumbents, ran unopposed.
Koontz has served as a freeholder since 2011. Melker was appointed in September 2018 to fill the seat of freeholder Anthony Verrelli, who vacated his position to serve in the New Jersey General Assembly. In November 2018, she then won an uncontested election to serve the remainder of Verrelli’s term.
Additionally, Mercer County residents voted to re-elect Democrat Brian Hughes as County Executive. Hughes won with 69 percent and 44,682 votes, defeating Republican challenger Lishian “Lisa” Wu, who earned 30 percent with 19,696 votes.
Wu made an unsuccessful bid for Princeton Town Council in 2018 — the first Republican in three years on the ballot.
On the local level, three candidates ran for two vacancies on Princeton’s town council. Democrats Mia Sacks and Michelle Pirone Lambros defeated “Independent Democrat” Adam Bierman to win the seats.
“My campaign was all about one thing from the beginning, and that was planning for the future of Princeton,” Sacks said. “Over the next few years I believe that critical decisions about the future of Princeton, that will lay the foundation for the next half-century, will be made.”
“I felt like I had the experience and the background and the community to have a seat at the table, and I think the people of Princeton agree,” Sacks added.
Four candidates ran for three seats on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education.
As of publication, candidate Susan Kanter led with 3,157 votes, followed by Dafna Kendal with 2,948. Deborah Bronfeld and Gregory Stankiewicz GS ’05 had 2,795 and 2,682 votes, respectively. However, these totals are unofficial and do not include any mail-in ballots.
“I’m hoping my son’s friends and college kids all really voted, and mailed them in,” Bronfeld said. “I don't think [a 113-vote margin] definitely means I won.”
Also on the ballot was a state constitutional amendment that would allocate veterans’ benefits to residents of “continuing care retirement communities.” The deduction would be given to continuing care retirement communities, which would pass on the value of those deductions to the veterans within.
The public question passed with 75.52 percent of the vote.
Several students, reflecting on this year’s elections, explained that they were less engaged than usual due to the lack of high-profile races.
“I wasn’t particularly invested in any races, I just kind of vote Democrat all down the ballot,” Isabel Griffith-Gorgati ’21 said to The Daily Princetonian after voting at Icahn. “I was aware of a couple of the campaigns, but mostly I’ve been focusing on the 2020 elections.”