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N.J. voters to cast ballots in primary election

New Jersey voters were to begin the work of settling a few party skirmishes at 6 a.m. Tuesday as they cast ballots in primaries for Legislature, county freeholder, and municipal offices.

New Jersey voters began the work of settling a few party skirmishes at 6 a.m. Tuesday as they cast ballots in primaries for Legislature, county freeholder, and municipal offices.

Though the primaries are quiet in South Jersey, in Union County, powerful Democratic State Sen. Raymond Lesniak; Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, a former Democratic Party chairman, and Democratic Assemblywoman Annette Quijano are in competitive primaries in the 20th District.

Lesniak has served in the Legislature since 1978. He is associated with the repeal of the state's death penalty and most recently sponsored a ballot question scheduled in November asking voters to legalize sports betting.

On the ballot in Mercer County is Richard Kanka, father of the girl whose murder by a convicted sex offender led to the passage of Megan's Law. Kanka, of Hamilton, is running unopposed for the state Senate as a Republican in the 14th District, which covers parts of Mercer and Middlesex Counties. In the fall, he hopes to unseat Democratic State Sen. Linda Greenstein in one of the state's few swing districts.

Most of the speculation in South Jersey legislative races is over whether Olympian Carl Lewis can make it to the Nov. 8 general election against freshman Republican State Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego.

After a state official decided that Lewis did not meet New Jersey's four-year residency requirement to run for the Senate, a federal judge began preparing to decide whether that requirement violates the Constitution. His decision is expected this summer.

Lewis owns homes in both Medford and California, and voted in California in 2009.

Still, he was out on the campaign trail leading up to the primary, knocking on doors in the Eighth District, which covers much of eastern Burlington County.

While most party-backed legislative candidates are unopposed, there are contested Republican primaries for legislative seats in Burlington, Cape May, and Camden Counties.

Statewide, 1.7 million Democrats and 1 million Republicans are eligible to vote in the primaries, but analysts expect only a fraction will show up.

"Typically, there is low legislative turnout," said Patrick Murray, polling director at Monmouth University. He said the most similar election was the 2007 primary. In that race, turnout was 8 percent, according to the state Division of Elections.

Unaffiliated voters - by far the largest group at 2.4 million - can vote in party primaries by declaring party affiliation at the polling place on election day. But Democrats and Republicans cannot vote in the opposite party's primary. Those wishing to flip from one party to the other would have had to switch parties at least 50 days before the primary.

Medford, Paulsboro, Camden City, and Willingboro are among municipalities with primaries. In a year their party has a chance to take control of the freeholder board, two slates of Republicans are battling in the Gloucester County race. Camden and Burlington County freeholders also have primary races.

On the legislative ballot, Sen. Diane Allen, a former Philadelphia news anchor who lives in Edgewater Park, is running against Carole Moore, also of Edgewater Park, in the Republican primary in the Seventh District, which covers much of the west side of Burlington County.

Though Ken Gordon's name will appear on the ballot in the Democratic primary for Assembly in the Seventh, he has withdrawn from the race.

Keith Walker of Camden and George Gallenthin of Woodbury are running in the Republican primary for Senate in the Fifth District, which runs through parts of Camden and Gloucester Counties. State Sen. Donald Norcross of Camden is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Cape May County's First District Senate seat, now held by Democrat Jeff Van Drew, has drawn Republican combatants. The party-endorsed candidate is David DeWeese of Wildwood, and his opponent is Thomas Greto of Villas. Greto ran for the 161st District seat in Pennsylvania as an independent in 1994 but was picked up on embezzlement charges during the race and was unable to complete his campaign. He was acquitted of the most serious charges and convicted on a misdemeanor. He heads a slate of tea party-inspired candidates running against the Republican organization.

All this is a lead-up to the Nov. 8 election in which partisan control of the Legislature is in play but at this moment is likely to remain in the hands of the Democrats. All 120 seats are up this year following remapping of all 40 districts. The new district lines reflect changes in population following the 2010 census. Each legislative district sends one state senator and two assembly members to Trenton.

Polls close at 8 p.m.