GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Incumbent Republican Sen. Michael Testa (R-1st) leads Democratic challenger Yolanda Garcia Balicki by 13 percentage points, in the First Legislative District's state Senate race, according to a Stockton University poll released Oct. 13.
According to a release from the university, Testa’s Republican running mates also lead in the district's Assembly races, but they are far less known than the senator and are ahead by four to six percentage points in the four-candidate field, according to the poll of 407 likely voters conducted for the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy.
Voters will elect two Assembly members in each district. The First District includes all of Cape May County, most of Cumberland County, and a small part of Atlantic County.
In the Senate contest, Testa leads 49% to 36% for Garcia Balicki, with 9% unsure. Among the Assembly candidates, Republican Erik Simonsen (R-1st) leads with 25%, followed by Republican Antwan McClellan (R-1st) with 23%. Democrats John Capizola and Julia Hankerson each garnered 19% support, with 10% unsure.
Testa, a Vineland resident, leads Garcia Balicki, of Millville, in both Cape May and Cumberland counties.
One problem for the Democrats is that few voters know who they are. All three were unfamiliar to 67% to 70% of poll respondents. The Republicans didn’t fare much better, as 57% to 60% are unfamiliar with the GOP Assembly candidates.
“These are fairly typical results for Assembly candidates who have not been in office for many years,” stated John Froonjian, Hughes Center executive director.
The Republicans have the best-known candidate at the top of their ticket. Only 34% said they didn’t know Testa, and he was viewed favorably by 45% and unfavorably by 19%.
In the First District, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli edged out incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, 46% to 44% - a statistical tie – with 5% not sure. Murphy’s ratings were 44% favorable and 49% unfavorable. Murphy’s job rating was a statistical wash, with 49% approving strongly or somewhat and 48% disapproving. Ciattarelli was viewed in a positive light by 42% compared to 29% unfavorable, with 22% unfamiliar with him. (Note: The poll was taken before Oct. 12's second and final gubernatorial debate.)
The Covid pandemic was identified as the election’s top issue, stated Hughes Center Research Associate Alyssa Maurice, but the nationwide polarization on the subject was evident: 14% were concerned with public health and safety, and 13% were concerned with mask and vaccine mandates. Taxes (12%), property taxes (10%) and the economy (8%), followed as major issues. On mask mandates in schools, 57% supported them while 35% opposed them. The split was closer on vaccine mandates, with 51% in support and 42% opposed.
A 52% majority said they were not satisfied with the efforts of state officials to attract or create jobs in South Jersey. However, 51% were optimistic about the future of the South Jersey economy, with 40% being pessimistic.
Asked who would better handle the issue of taxes, Republicans, at 54%, bested the Democrats, at 34%. On handling the pandemic, 44% named the Democrats to 38% for Republicans.
Full poll results are on the Stockton Polling Institute website.