TRENTON, N.J. – Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Menendez (search), the party's third highest ranking member in the House, won easily Tuesday in a primary election that generated little interest statewide.
Menendez was challenged for the 13th District nomination by Steven Fulop (search), a sales trader at Goldman Sachs, but Tuesday's race was never close. Menendez will face Republican Richard W. Piatkowski in the Nov. 2 general election.
Menendez received 19,591 votes, or 82 percent, to 4,358 votes, or 18 percent, for Fulop, with 79 percent of precincts reporting.
"I say it's a victory for the citizens of the 13th congressional district because they have someone who will fight for them everyday, who will give it their all every day, and who never forgets where he came from," Menendez told campaign supporters Tuesday night. "I know they need a champion and I intend to continue to be their champion in the Congress of the United States."
Menendez, a former mayor of Union City, was first elected in 1992 and has moved up the power structure in the Democratic Party. He is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, making him the third-most powerful congressman in his party.
Menendez, 50, is seeking a seventh term in the House. He won the 2002 general election with 78 percent of the vote.
"I am humbled and privileged by this overwhelming victory tonight," he said.
Only two other congressional districts had contested elections Tuesday.
In the 5th District, Dorothea Anne Wolfe (search) defeated Frank Fracasso to be the Democratic candidate against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Wolfe had 7,414 votes, or 83 percent, to 1,564 votes, or 17 percent, for Fracasso.
Wolfe, 51, resigned from her job as chairperson of the Bergen County Improvement Authority to campaign. Wolfe's foray into the political scene began when she volunteered to walk door-to-door in Massachusetts when she was 19 to help John Kerry in his first congressional bid. In 1972, she worked on George McGovern's campaign as a fund-raiser.
Wolfe called Garrett an extreme conservative and said she would press him on his record as a first-term congressman.
"We're going to concentrate on that, we're going to concentrate on the fact he's not caring about working families in the 5th Congressional District," Wolfe said.
In the 1st District, Republicans John Cusak was leading in a tight race over Daniel Hutchison. The winner will face a popular incumbent, Democrat Rob Andrews, in November.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cusak had 4,130 votes, or 51 percent, to 4,004 votes, or 49 percent, for Hutchinson.
Kerry's presidential nomination was in hand months ago. Kerry easily bested the three other Democratic candidates, George H. Ballard III, Dennis J. Kucinich and Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.
President Bush was the sole Republican candidate.
Turnout was light throughout the state, and for most of the day poll workers reported little traffic.
Only registered members of political parties are eligible to vote in primaries. About half of New Jersey's 4.6 million registered voters do not belong to a political party.
New Jersey's last in the nation presidential primary did little to bring voters to the polls.
In November, all 13 of New Jersey's U.S. representatives are up for re-election.
Democrats have the edge over Republicans by a 7-6 margin in the state's congressional delegation, but thanks to very favorable voting districts, incumbents of both parties are likely to stay in office.