New Jersey primary election 2024 voters dissatisfied with Trump and Biden

It was not your garden variety primary in the Garden State on Tuesday.

It involved presidential nominees effectively already chosen; a U.S. Senate campaign in which the indicted incumbent, on trial in New York, has declared he will run as an independent; and in a heavily Democratic state, Republicans may have rivaled the ranks of Democrats among those showing up at the polls.

The latter phenomenon had to do with the fact that about 10% of Democrats had voted by mail, compared with 5% of GOP registrants.

While turnout generally was reported to be light, it was brisk in Upper Township, Cape May County — one of seven counties in the state in which Republicans hold an advantage. But several voters interviewed said the higher turnout may have been spurred by hot local committee races.

As for the candidates at the top of the respective tickets, Inell Sutton, who voted in Burlington County, where a new generation of voting machines drew some voter complaints and caused delays, appeared to summarize a sentiment held by many primary voters who voted in person on Tuesday.

‘I wish we had better choices’ in presidential race

“Aw, man, I wish we had better choices,” Sutton, a 48-year-old case worker said outside the Nesbit Community Center in Pemberton Township.

Perhaps not shockingly, the unopposed Republican candidate, former President Donald J. Trump, and his unopposed Democratic rival, President Joe Biden, won their respective primaries.

Rather than Biden and Trump, Sutton preferred to talk about the Democratic nominee for whom he voted for U.S. Senate, Andy Kim, whose expected departure from the U.S. House of Representatives set off a crowded race for his seat.

“I think he understands the struggles of the underprivileged and he’ll use his facilities to work for them,” Sutton said.

Regarding his choice for the general election in November, Sutton hemmed for a moment. “It would have to be Trump,” he said.

Similarly, Svetlana Perry, a 45-year-old Republican in Cherry Hill, said she had hoped to have other options in the presidential primary, perhaps Nikki Haley, but she said she would vote for Trump.

Sara Kriesman said she wasn’t particularly excited about the option of voting for Biden or Trump. But Biden is clearly the superior option, she said.

She said she considers Trump the “devil incarnate.” The 46-year-old Cherry Hill Democrat said women’s rights were her top voting issue and she was concerned that her daughters live in a world where they have fewer rights than she did.

She described Biden as “a good man” who she believes “has our best interests at heart.”

Nicole and Evan Cutler and their daughter Michelle, casting her first vote at age 18, all voted for Biden, although the members of the Cherry Hill family said they wished someone younger was running.

“They’re sharper and probably would have connected with younger voters, like me,” Michelle Cutler said. “The two big names are two old men.”

In Upper Township, Cape May County, Cheryle Eisele, 78, a retired college professor, said she was solidly behind Biden. Of Trump, she said, “I would not vote for a convicted felon.”

For Keith Humphrey, 55, of Woodstown, Salem County, his vote for Trump was about the economy.

“I support Jeff Van Drew for Senate, and Donald Trump,” said Humphrey, a Republican. Trump, he said, is good for business, and Biden is not.

“As a business owner, I did very well under Trump,” he said. “But now there are more taxes and inflation. All the advantages I had are gone.”

In Medford Lakes, Burlington County, Christopher Verone, 75, who showed up to vote wearing a T-shirt with “true patriot” printed across the chest, agreed.

Verone cast his vote for Trump and believes fellow New Jerseyans should do the same. Trump, Verone said, is a “true businessman” who “knows how to run the government like a business.”

He dismissed Trump’s recent conviction of 34 counts of falsifying business records in a hush-money scheme.

Richard Cordry, 79, who voted in Mount Laurel, said that from what he’s read of the Make America Great Again movement, Trump supporters are in an economic la-la land.

“They’re basically like adults who still believe in Santa Claus,” he said. “They think Santa is going to come give them stuff, and there’s nothing Trump will do for any of them.”

Bob Menendez on voters’ minds, but not the ballot

As did some other voters, Cordry chose to comment on someone who was not on the ballot: Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who is on trial in New York on corruption charges.

Menendez withdrew from the primary and announced Monday that he would run as an independent. In New Jersey, more than a third of voters are registered as non-affiliated.

Cordry said he was not a huge fan of Menendez’s. “I guess all these politicians have to have egos, though, or they wouldn’t be politicians,” he said.

Eisele, the retired college professor, said of Menendez, “I think he’s in sad shape right now. I think he’s made some bad choices.” She said she wouldn’t rule out voting for Menendez again if he were acquitted, but not in this election.

Janet Sayter, a 71-year-old who also voted Tuesday in Upper Township, said she would “never” consider voting for Menendez. “I have not respected him for a very long time,” she said.

Jason Frazier, 46, of Cherry Hill, who voted at Carman Tilelli Community Center, said he liked Menendez when the senator was first elected, but had been turned off by the corruption allegations.

“If you don’t have your moral compass set when you get there it’s easy to get swept away in corruption,” he said. “I think that’s what happened to him.”

State Sen. Michael Testa (R., Cumberland) was among those who would welcome a Menendez presence in the race.

Said Testa, who was attending a primary night party in Cape May, “I think he could be a real wrench in the Democrat machine.”

Few voting issues reported

With the polls about to close, it appeared that the voting had proceeded with no major problems, save for the Burlington County machine issues.

A Burlington County spokesperson acknowledged that voting was slower for some people as a result of the new machines, and attributed that to a lack of familiarity. The new machines replaced equipment that had been in use for 25 years, said David Levinsky.

He added that election officials “anticipate this will improve in future elections as voters and poll workers both become more accustomed to the new technology and procedures.”

Staff writers Katie Bernard, Jesse Bunch, and Robert Moran contributed to this article.

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