The Year in Review by the New Jersey Globe named Avi Schnall the “Winner of the Year” for his stunning upset in the 30th Legislative District, where he was propelled to victory as a Democrat in what is perhaps New Jersey’s most conservative district.
The Globe wrote:
The 30th district, which includes Lakewood and parts of Monmouth County, is arguably the most Republican district in the state, but in November 2023, it elected a Democratic assemblyman in a landslide.
The winner was Avi Schnall, a vibrant Lakewood Rabbi, community organizer, and the longtime director of the New Jersey office of Agudath Israel of America, a grassroots advocacy and social service organization representing the Orthodox Jewish community.
Lakewood is New Jersey’s fastest-growing municipality; it’s now the fifth largest, with 5,000 babies being born there annually – and with a continued influx of new residents, primarily Orthodox Jews, it’s on track to surpass Paterson and Elizabeth in the next census. Nearly nine out of ten students are enrolled in private schools, making state assistance to the township of critical importance to Lakewood leaders.[Senator Bob] Singer and a Republican assemblyman, Sean Kean, voted for the Democratic budget in June because it brought money into Lakewood, but the other GOP assemblyman, Ned Thomson, voted no. That put a massive target on Thomson’s back.
The idea of Schnall running as a Democrat was hatched earlier this year and abandoned, only to be revived in late August on the last day for candidates to be replaced on the ballot. Lakewood has been represented in the Senate for thirty years by a Republican, Bob Singer, but Democrats in control of both houses of the legislature, community leaders, led by Schnall, determined that it was in their best interests to have representation in the Assembly majority caucus.
There were plenty of naysayers who believed the 30th was simply too Republican to fall into the hands of Democrats, even a former Republican like Schnall. But when the full force of the Lakewood electorate showed up – lines out the door at the Lakewood early voting center on the Sunday before the election sent a huge signal – Schnall unseated Thomson by a massive 11,406 votes.
The strategy included a pass for Kean, who had the support of the Lakewood Orthodox community. The spread between Kean and Thomson – 19,374 votes – was the largest between running mates in New Jersey history.
Schnall enters the legislature with Brian Stack-like electoral prowess. And while the Democratic majority is big enough to pass a bill without Schnall, who will easily be the most conservative member of the majority, ambitious Democrats will understand just how many votes the new assemblyman can deliver because they saw him do it.