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AP News Guide: A look at New Jersey's elections

FILE - In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. New Jersey's ballot question on legalizing recreational marijuana has led to more than $2 million in fund raising by interest groups, the state Election Law Enforcement Commission said Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

By The Associated Press undefined

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Democrats Joe Biden and Cory Booker emerged victorious Tuesday in New Jersey.

Results are now coming after millions cast mail-in ballots for president, Senate, House and three ballot questions more than a month ago.

The biggest ballot question – whether to approve recreational marijuana – passed Tuesday.

COVID-19 led Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy to upend traditional voting by sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

The presidential race between Biden and incumbent Republican Donald Trump, and the U.S. Senate race, weren’t expected to be close in New Jersey. And they weren’t. Biden easily won the state, and Booker won a second full term, defeating Republican Rik Mehta.

But a handful of House races look to be toss-ups, and the marijuana ballot question has national implications: If approved, New Jersey would become the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

This year’s election is unique because it’s being conducted mostly by mail-in ballots.

A closer look at this year’s most watched races:

PRESIDENT

Democrat Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump in New Jersey.

Biden, the former vice president, won New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes Tuesday, continuing Democrats’ stranglehold on the state. Republicans haven’t won in New Jersey since 1988. Despite the president’s ties to New Jersey, he was never expected to carry the state.

Trump owns golf clubs in Bedminster, Colts Neck and Pine Hill. He also operated now-defunct casinos in Atlantic City. The president regularly stays at his Bedminster club throughout the summer.

U.S. SENATE

New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker has easily won a second full term in the U.S. Senate.

Booker defeated Republican Rik Mehta, a business executive with a law degree and a doctorate in pharmacy.

Booker ran an unsuccessful primary campaign for president this year. While he lost the nomination to former Vice President Joe Biden, Booker had a lock on Democratic support in the state, winning Gov. Phil Murphy’s endorsement.

His victory cements New Jersey as a Democratic stronghold.

The last Republican elected to the Senate was Clifford Case in 1972.

Booker won a special election in 2013 after the death of Democrat Frank Lautenberg. He won his first full term in 2014.

MARIJUANA BALLOT QUESTION

New Jersey voters said yes to an amendment Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana.

The ballot question means that New Jersey will join the District of Columbia and 11 other states to legalizing cannabis.

Under the amendment, only those 21 and older could legally buy and use the drug.

It’s unclear when cannabis will be available because legislation must first be passed in order to set up the new marijuana market.

But it’s expected to move relatively quickly because the Democrat-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy supported legalization.

HOUSE DISTRICT 2

This is perhaps the most closely watched race in the state. Incumbent Rep. Jeff Van Drew gained national attention when he abandoned the Democratic Party in December and became a Republican, saying he couldn’t support impeachment of the president. He pledged his “undying support” to Trump during an Oval Office meeting and in January hosted the president in Wildwood for a rally.

That was before the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, Van Drew has been locked in a tight race against Democratic opponent Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher. She’s also the spouse of former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The southern New Jersey district encompasses all or part of eight counties and supported Trump in 2016, though it backed Democrat Barack Obama in his two presidential runs.

HOUSE DISTRICT 3

Democratic incumbent Andy Kim is running for his second term in the southern New Jersey district that stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs along the Delaware River in Burlington County to Ocean County.

He faces Republican former businessman David Richter. Richter originally planned to run against Van Drew. But when Van Drew became a Republican, Richter moved north to seek the 3rd District seat.

Richter, a retired Hill International executive, is a newcomer to politics.

HOUSE DISTRICT 7

Freshman Democrat Tom Malinowski faces Tom Kean Jr., the state Senate Republican Minority Leader and son of former GOP Gov. Tom Kean.

The 7th District includes parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties, and all of Hunterdon.

The race has taken a negative turn, with Kean’s supporters airing ads claiming that Malinowski lobbied against a national sex offender registry. Malinowski explicitly denied the claim, which stems from his work as a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch. Republicans have pointed to lobbying records showing Malinowski’s name as a lobbyist on legislation, including the sex offender registry. But Malinowski covered foreign policy while at Human Rights Watch, he said, not domestic policy. The ads have led to Malinowski getting death threats, his office has said.

HOUSE DISTRICT 11

Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill has defeated her Republican opponent to win re-election in New Jersey.

Sherrill won her second term Tuesday, defeating GOP attorney Rosemary Becchi.

She won the seat in 2018 after Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen retired. The district had been a longtime Republican stronghold, but began to change, particularly under Republican President Donald Trump.

Sherrill voted for the articles of impeachment against Trump in 2019, and centered her campaign on health care, particularly on protecting pre-existing conditions coverage.

The northern New Jersey district covers parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties.

OTHER HOUSE DISTRICTS

In the state’s other eight House districts, Democrats sought to defend seven seats.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith, the only other Republican besides Van Drew, won his 21st term in the House, beating Democrat Stephanie Scmid and three other candidates.

Democratic incumbents Donald Payne Jr. and Albio Sires won on Tuesday, Payne for a sixth term and Sires for a ninth.

Democrats Donald Norcross, Bill Pascrell and Bonnie Watson Coleman also won. Norcross is headed for his fourth full term, as is Watson Coleman. Pascrell won a 12th term on Tuesday.

ATLANTIC CITY MAYOR

Marty Small, the Democratic incumbent, was leading in incomplete totals reported by the county clerk’s office, which said no additional results would be released Tuesday night. Small was running for the final year of his predecessor’s unexpired term. He was being challenged by Republican Tom Forkin. The winner will presumably run again next year for a full four-year term. It’s a time of upheaval in the seaside gambling resort, struggling with the coronavirus pandemic that has kept casinos restricted to 25% of capacity. The city also remains under state control under a takeover law approved by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled state Legislature.

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Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.