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11-6-13 Governor Christie Re-elected...Legislature Remains in Democratic Control
(GSCS Note: The State Senate balance remains the same at 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans; The State Assembly changed 2 seats to Republicans, standing now at 46 Democrats and 34 Republicans.)Click on More here to see full articles attached...

The Record - Reelected Christie thanks N.J. for making him 'luckiest guy'

NJ Spotlight - Democrats Stand Fast in Senate, Lose Two Seats in Lower Chamber

The Record - Reelected Christie thanks N.J. for making him 'luckiest guy'

Last updated: Wed. Nov 6, 2013, 6:52 AM By  Melissa Hayes, John Reitmeyer And Scott Fallon

Republican Governor Christie easily won reelection Tuesday, defeating Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono with the largest margin in almost 25 years and setting the stage for a possible run at the White House in 2016.

Christie was leading Buono by a margin of 60 percent to 38 percent with 98 percent of the vote counted.

His victory, apparent just after polls closed at 8 p.m., would be the most lopsided since 1989, when Democratic Rep. Jim Florio beat fellow Rep. Jim Courter, a Republican, by 24 points.

“We stand here tonight and show that it is possible to put doing your job first, to put working together first, to fight for what you believe in yet still stand by your principles and get something done for the people who elected you,” Christie told supporters at his victory party in Asbury Park. “I know that if we can do this in Trenton, N.J., maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now.”

Christie’s win continues his transformation from a corruption-busting prosecutor to a brash chief executive to now a Republican trying to distinguish himself on the national stage from the influential fringes of his party.

What it means for New Jersey is still in question. As active as he was in a first term that saw a property tax cap, a bipartisan reform of public worker pension and benefits and a reorganization of the state’s higher education system, Christie has been just as quiet over what he wants to accomplish in his second term, however long it lasts.

At a packed Asbury Park convention center Tuesday night, Christie spoke about a “dysfunctional government in Washington [that] looks to New Jersey to say, ‘Is what I think happening really happening? Are people really coming together?'”

Christie said he would never “stop leading the state I love.”

“You see, what people never understood about us is that I never needed the introduction to all of you because I am one of you,” he said to cheers.

“Thank you, New Jersey, for making me the luckiest guy in the world,” he said.

Christie made no mention of any aspirations beyond Trenton in his victory speech. But political observers said the convincing win in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 700,000 secured Christie’s presidential appeal as a GOP candidate who can corral independent and Democratic votes. His victory came on the same night Republican Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative backed by Tea Party groups, lost in Virginia’s high-profile gubernatorial race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

“It clearly solidifies [Christie] as the No. 1 choice for the Republican establishment right now,” said Matthew Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University.

Christie won 19 of 21 counties with Buono claiming only Essex and Hudson counties. She lost her home county of Middlesex by almost 17 points.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting in Bergen County, Christie was leading Buono 60 percent to 39 percent. In Passaic County, Christie was leading Buono 53 percent to 46 percent with 100 percent of the precincts reporting.

Christie’s campaign made an effort to seek minority voters and appeared to do better than his 2009 gubernatorial victory, according to exit polling done on behalf of The Associated Press. He won 51 percent of Hispanic voters — a 19 point jump from 2009. He won 70 percent of white voters. Among black voters it was 21 percent — a 12 point increase from 2009.

Recent polls had Christie leading anywhere from 20 to 33 points heading into Election Day.

In a concession speech delivered only 45 minutes after polls closed, Buono congratulated Christie, but saved her harshest words for the Democratic leaders who supported the governor. She said her campaign staff “withstood the onslaught of betrayal from our own political party.”

She said she hoped her candidacy would inspire more women to run for office and stressed the issues that mattered to her most, such as education and same-sex marriage. “We did it our way, and I’m proud of that,” Buono said at a restaurant in Metuchen moments before her husband, Martin Gizzi, and running mate Milly Silva closed in for the campaign’s final embrace.

Christie came into the race with approval ratings hovering around 70 percent after his widely praised handling of Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath. His on-the-ground appearances in devastated communities, his close working relationship with President Obama and his steadfast message that New Jersey would recover resonated with New Jerseyans.

Christie, 51, had already become a high-profile national figure with his keynote address at the 2012 Republican National Convention. And in 2013, he continued to be the rare sought-after guest for both late-night comedy shows and Sunday morning political programs.

To New Jersey voters, Christie touted his property tax cap tax, the economic recovery of the state from the 2008 financial collapse and his bipartisan efforts to reform the state pension and benefit system. Property taxes reached an all-time high under Christie but rose at a much lower rate than under his predecessors. New Jersey’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent from 9.8 percent under Christie but was still more than a percentage point above the national rate.

Buono, 60, announced her candidacy in December, entering the campaign with little name recognition outside of Middlesex County. She trailed Christie by as much as 40 points in some early polls. At the time, speculation was rampant that other Democrats would consider a run.

But Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the only Democrat with the star power and fundraising ability to challenge Christie, soon announced that he wouldn’t seek the governorship. Others such as state Sen. Richard Codey and Senate President Stephen Sweeney ultimately chose to stay out.

Although she easily cleared a nominal primary challenge in June, Buono received little support from the Democratic establishment. She had fallen from favor when she bucked party leadership in 2011 by refusing to support public employee pension-reform legislation backed by Christie and Sweeney.

While Christie was holding fundraisers across the country — including one at the California home of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — Buono struggled to raise the necessary funds, making personal phone calls for donations. She was the first candidate to participate in the state’s public matching fund program who failed to raise enough for the maximum match in the primary.

Christie raised $4.47 million in private donations and received the maximum $8.2 million match in the general election cycle. He did not participate in the public financing program for the primary. Buono raised $1.26 million and has received $1.62 million in matching funds through the end of October.

Buono’s campaign lobbied the White House and the Democratic National Committee over the summer for support. But Obama, who visited New York City to campaign for New York mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio, did not come to New Jersey for Buono.

But when Obama came to the state in May to see the recovery effort, Christie was with him and not Buono. The two men were photographed playing a football toss game in Point Pleasant Beach — the governor even won the president a stuffed bear — and walking the boardwalk together.

Before Obama delivered remarks in Asbury Park later that day, Buono did get a chance to chat with Obama and pose for photographs, but the meeting was done outside the view of the public. At the time, Buono said she was hopeful Obama would come back to New Jersey to support her candidacy.

Meanwhile, the Christie campaign was crafting an image of the governor as a bipartisan pragmatist cooperating with everyone from Sweeney over pension reform to working with Obama in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Despite fighting Democrats for four years over affordable housing, same-sex marriage, minimum wage and the makeup of the state Supreme Court, Christie received endorsements from more than 50 Democratic office holders. And even though they didn’t publicly endorse him, some high-profile Democrats like Sweeney and Booker acted very chummy with Christie at several public events during the height of the campaign.

Many thought the race would take a twist in June when U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg died.

Democrats thought a Senate race on the November ballot would energize support in their base for Buono with the popular Booker emerging as the front-runner to fill the remainder of Lautenberg’s term.

But Christie quickly announced the Senate seat would be decided in a rare October election that Booker won handily. While the election cost taxpayers $24 million, political observers said it was a smart move by Christie to ensure that his margin would be as wide as possible.

While many questioned the timing and the added cost, Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University polling center, said of Christie: “Getting this Booker thing out of the way, off his ballot was a very smart move. He’s a terrific political performer, nearly flawless.”

NJ Spotlight - Democrats Stand Fast in Senate, Lose Two Seats in Lower Chamber

Colleen O'Dea | November 5, 2013

 

The Christie tidal wave, as one Democratic leader called it, did not wash away the Democrats’ legislative majorities.

As of midnight, it appeared the party lost only two seats in the Assembly -- one in the 1st district in South Jersey and the other in the 38th in the North -- and none in the Senate. That’s a far cry from the 14-seat gain the Republicans made in 1985, when Gov. Thomas H. Kean won re-election in what remains the largest landslide in modern state history.

Last night’s results still leave the Democrats with majorities of 24-16 in the Senate and 46-34 in the Assembly. But as with the past four years, that does not mean gridlock, since this same Democratic majority passed much of Gov. Chris Christie’s political program, such as pension and health benefit reforms. But despite Christie’s commanding win, the Democrats also pushed through this year’s ballot measure, a hike of the minimum wage.

"This was certainly a tremendous personal victory for Chris Christie, but it didn't translate into a victory for the Republican Party," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University and a professor there.

Aside from the overwhelming support for the governor, New Jerseyans "voted for Democrats across the state," Dworkin said. "They held their state Senate seats, and in the Assembly, one lost because of self-inflicted political baggage, and another race is so close that it will certainly go to a recount."

In the 1st Legislative District, Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi defeated Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Albano by 1,335 votes. Albano created an ethics problem for himself with a complaint against a state trooper, who had ticketed him for speeding.

In the 38th, Democratic Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, one of two openly gay legislators, appeared to have lost by only 171 votes to Rochelle Park Committeeman Joseph Scarpa, a Republican.

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3rd), who won his own re-election fight, said voters didn't want a "rubber-stamp Legislature” and so chose Democratic lawmakers.

"Understand, we’re going to fight, you know what I mean, unlike the Republicans in the Legislature who just nod and say 'yes' and go forward; understand that we never did that," Sweeney said. "We’re not afraid to step up and speak our minds and disagree. It’s OK -- that makes better policy."

Sweeney said voters don’t want the Legislature to support Christie's positions, cutting funds to women's health and in opposition to a millionaire's tax, adding: "They do not want to grant the governor a Supreme Court that was going to be molded in his image."

Sweeney expressed scorn for Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean's pre-election predictions that the Republicans would gain seats.

"All I know is Tom Kean said, ‘I got five,’" Sweeney said, referring to Kean's prediction of gaining enough seats to gain the majority. He said Kean has to explain to the other Republican senators why "he decided to spend a million dollars against me that probably would have been better spent in other places. I'm very glad he spent the million down by me." Sweeney ended up winning with 55 percent of the vote.

Despite the expected Christie juggernaut, pundits had not expected the Democrats to lose many seats. All across the state, legislative Democrats in hotly contested districts have been talking about their own bipartisan credentials, how they worked with Christie to get things done, Dworkin said. He had predicted that the popular bipartisanship them would help the Democratic majorities maintain control.

“The current legislative map favors the Democrats,” Dworkin said. “In all of these races, Democratic incumbents” were trying to overcome the massive Christie victory.

Still, there was a valid question: Would the popular Republican governor, who would be atop the ticket, be able to pull other Republicans along on his coattails, especially since Republican legislative leaders had vowed to fight in districts not usually considered battlegrounds?

There was cause for concern: In 1985, when popular Gov. Thomas H. Kean won re-election with 70 percent of the vote, the Republicans gained a net 14 seats in the Assembly to take control of the lower house with a 50-30 majority. Democrats lost some unthinkable elections in Essex, Hudson, and Bergen counties. Senators were not up for re-election that year. Those gains were temporary, since the GOP lost eight seats in 1987, although it still held control of the Assembly. In 1989, when Democrat Jim Florio was elected governor, the party retook control of the lower house.

Hope for a similar Christie landslide this year helped fuel spending -- $48.6 million for the primary and general elections spent by candidates and their committees and millions more spent by so-called independent groups seeking to influence the races.

The greatest amount raised and spent through October 25 was in the 3rd District in South Jersey. Hardly considered a close contest in most elections, this is Sweeney's home. Two years ago he was re-elected with about 56 percent of the vote, but Sen. Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. had vowed to challenge Sweeney on his home turf. His opponent, Niki Trunk, was a former Harrison Township committeewoman and former employee of the state comptroller’s office. Trunk had raised $354,000 in her individual account and $157,000 with her GOP Assembly running mates. But the Democratic incumbents had far more. In total, $3.6 million was raised and $3.1 million spent by the 3rd District candidates, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Like the last legislative election, the 2nd District, which covers part of Atlantic County, and the 38th, straddling Bergen and Passaic counties, were also hotly contested. Despite all the money, talk, and political ads, neither contest was especially close in 2011, but that was without Christie’s name on the ballot.

This year, Sen. James Whelan,(D-2nd) had a well-known challenger in Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles. And Fernando Alonso, up against Sen. Robert Gordon (D-38th) had greater name recognition, having run -- and lost -- for Assembly last year. The Democratic ticket there also had an opening, with Connie Wagner’s resignation from the Assembly and Paramus Councilman Joseph Lagana replacing her.

The latest figures from ELEC placed the 38th as second-most expensive -- $3 million raised, $2.8 million spent. The 2nd came in fourth place, with $2.6 million raised and $2.2 million spent.

Whelan, whose seat was considered in play, cruised to victory, while the Assembly contests in this split district were nail-biters. Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown led the field, but his fellow incumbent John Amodeo, also a Republican, was only 379 votes ahead of Northfield Mayor Vincent Mazzeo, with Longport Mayor Nick Russo trailing all.

"The clerk's website shows me as the winner, but it's a close race," Whelan said.

Like Whelan, Gordon won by a relatively comfortable margin. The race for the two Assembly seats was very close, with just 300 votes separating the top vote-getter, Democrat Joseph Lagana, seeking his first term in the Assembly, and its lowest, incumbent Eustace. The close results make a recount likely.

Ranking third-most expensive was the 14th, where, according to ELEC, the candidates raised $2.7 million and spent $2.5 million. Democratic incumbents, Sen. Linda Greenstein and Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Daniel Benson, had no trouble winning re-election two years ago. In 2011, Greenstein faced Richard Kanka, known for his advocacy of Megan’s Law after his daughter was killed by a convicted pedophile. This time around, though, former Sen. Peter Inverso, sought to retake the seat he had held for 16 years. This time, the results were tight for Greenstein, in particular, but she, Benson and DeAngelo all won.

Another district not normally in play was the 18th, where the Democrats’ hold on gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono’s open Senate seat was in doubt as East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl switched parties to run as a Republican against Assemblyman Peter Barnes, looking to take Buono’s place. That also left open Barnes’ seat, for which the Democrats nominated Nancy Pinkin, an East Brunswick councilwoman. Barnes won with 52 percent of the votes. Pinkin and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan also won, by even larger margins.

The 1st District race for one Assembly seat was close in 2011, with Democrat Matthew Milam beating Fiocchi by less than 1,000 votes. Milam resigned, replaced by Bob Andrzejczak. Fiocchi was back as part of the team, hammering at the entire blue ticket over Albano’s ethics investigation. Albano appeared to be the only casualty in this district that is always a contest due to its unique circumstances -- Republican voters outnumber Democrats, yet the Democrats hold all the seats.

Another district always in play is the 7th, which is the only district beside the 2nd with split representation. Democrats hold a decided voter registration advantage, as well as the two Assembly seats. But Sen. Diane Allen, a moderate Republican known to buck her party -- she voted with the Democrats in support of same-sex marriage -- has been in office for 15 years and won by a comfortable margin last time, even outpolling Democratic Assembly candidates Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton. All three incumbents won easily.

Over the past three weeks, an unexpected battleground had emerged in the 16th district. It was the only race where Republican incumbents were being “forced to play defense,” Dworkin said. The district has a sizable Democratic base, but has been a Republican stronghold for a long time. He said it was only in the aftermath of the government shutdown that polling began to tighten. Democrat Marie Corfield fared best of the Democrats, but still lost by almost 5,000 votes.

The Record Column - Stile: Christie's strategy of wooing key Democrats pays off big

 

Last updated: Wednesday November 6, 2013, 6:53 AM  By CHARLES STILE, COLUMNIST

A day after routing Jon Corzine in 2009, Republican Governor-elect Chris Christie placed a call to the Democratic mayor of Woodbridge, John McCormac, inviting him to join his transition team.

McCormac, a state treasurer under Gov. James E. McGreevey who continues to be a fixture in the state Democratic Party, was happy to sign on.

It proved to be a wise move for McCormac and his town. Three years later, Christie returned the favor, using his political muscle to help approve a 700-megawatt power plant for Woodbridge, a project expected to generate jobs and revenue for decades.

“After elections, it doesn’t matter what party” people are in, McCormac said. “We all have to work together for the benefit of our citizens.”

The “I’ll help you, you help me” alliance with McCormac, made within hours of Christie’s victory four years ago, illustrates an overlooked tactic that propelled his win Tuesday over Democrat Barbara Buono, a longtime state senator from Middlesex County.

Christie’s bold leadership during Superstorm Sandy, the shrewd marketing of his Jersey tough guy persona and several important legislative accomplishments are indeed important factors in the strong support for his reelection. But while the public was seeing all of that, Christie discreetly and methodically courted Democrats with every lever of power at his disposal. By the end, many of those Democrats would supply the manpower, money or simply the photo ops for his campaign.

Related: 2013 New Jersey General Election results

Long before Buono entered a race that no other Democratic contender wanted to come near, Christie had already won the campaign. While the cameras and the social-media feeds and the political pundits focused on Christie’s forceful personality, his often over-the-top comments and his welcoming embrace of President Obama after Sandy, Christie was planting the seeds for his own reelection, Demo­cratic mayor by Democratic mayor, Democratic boss by Democratic boss, Demo­cratic union leader by Democratic union leader. As the ancient Chinese military tome “The Art of War” noted, “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

Christie won the unofficial support — and admiration — of George Norcross, the South Jersey insurance executive and the state’s most powerful Democrat, by carrying out an overhaul of the state’s higher education system that poured more money into that region. He wooed Democratic-allied construction unions by financing massive transportation projects and backing tax incentives for long-dormant mega-projects in Atlantic City and the Meadowlands. He used his clout to secure approvals for large Port Authority of New York and New Jersey projects in Democratic towns.

By the end of this campaign, Demo­crats not only endorsed Christie, they lavished him with praise, eager to demonstrate their fealty and well aware that the chances of intraparty punishment were nil. Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who is also a state senator, gave Christie a hero’s welcome — and a parade. Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura took the unusual step of vigorously defending Christie’s debate performance.

And although Cory Booker formally endorsed Buono, Booker, the state’s most popular Democrat, publicly praised Christie during a Newark supermarket groundbreaking. It was Booker’s first public event after winning the U.S. Senate seat last month. Events with Buono would have to wait.

But Christie’s early, old-school “outreach” worked to divide, conquer and dilute the power of the state’s ruling Democrats. Despite the party’s power on paper — 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans and majority control of both houses of the Legislature — Christie’s strategy exploited its divisions and realized its vaunted machinery put power and self-preservation ahead of partisan loyalty.

Christie revived the transactional, political dynamic that vanished during the rocky tenure of Corzine, his predecessor. Legislators and mayors — who care more about obtaining environmental permits and road project funding and financing for community clubhouses — fumed at Corzine’s clumsy deal-making and his CEO-like aloofness.

Christie recognized the post-Corzine hunger among the political class for a governor’s office willing to listen and deal. It made many officials easy prey for Christie’s entreaties.

“Jon Corzine continues to haunt the Democratic Party,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a Union County Democrat.

Christie reopened the governor’s office, but with an implied “you’re either with me or against me” ethos. Those who worked with him — by keeping a low profile, voting for parts of his agenda or even endorsing his reelection — could count on getting their phone calls returned and their needs addressed. Those who criticized risked being locked out.

For some Democrats, it was an easy decision. They saw no advantage in tangling with a governor whose popularity only seemed to soar with every attack on sewerage authority bureaucrats, teacher union leaders and the occasional mayor, like Atlantic City’s Lorenzo Langford, one of the few big-city mayors who openly clashed with Christie.

“Mayors now feel they have a voice in Trenton,” said one Democratic mayor, who declined to be identified for fear of alienating some intraparty allies. “Why did we want to change that?”

Christie forged ties with Democrats for symbolic as well as strategic reasons. He secured the endorsement of Michael Blunt, the African-American mayor of Chesilhurst in Camden County, one of only three small towns that former Gov. Thomas H. Kean did not carry in his 1985 reelection landslide.

Blunt said he was impressed with Christie’s forthright style and the help the town received from the Department of Community Affairs in getting the town’s finances in order. And that help was boosted by a $200,000 special state aid package for economically distressed towns in 2011.

“We received transitional aid when a lot of other towns didn’t receive any,” Blunt said.

Christie won the endorsement of Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough after the governor secured approval from the Port Authority for a $250 million PATH transit hub for the downtown. Harrison was also the beneficiary of a $2 million state aid award in 2012.

Christie also attracted mayors with the promise of access and assistance in the future.

River Edge Mayor Sandy Moscaritolo, who endorsed Christie last month, was part of a group of Democratic mayors Christie invited to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton.

He said “I understand the political position you are in,” Moscaritolo said. “But if you can support me, I would really appreciate it.”

Some Democratic donors also helped Christie with their checkbooks. He received $6,300 from lawyers at DeCotiis, FitzPatrick and Cole of Teaneck. Listed among the donors is Al DeCotiis, a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee and a fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Michael DeCotiis, who served as chief counsel to McGreevey.

Buono received nothing from the firm. The DeCotiis family members were unavailable for comment, said William Murray, a spokesman.

Several lobbyists, who declined to be identified, said many traditional donors didn’t want to waste money investing on a long shot like Buono. One veteran lobbyist said he didn’t want to put his career or his clients in “harm’s way” — meaning they didn’t want to risk being cut off by Christie if their names appeared on Buono’s donor lists.

Political veterans say Christie is simply following an “outreach” path hewn by his mentor, Kean, who fostered generally warm relations with urban Democrats in the 1980s. But Christie adapted the approach in his own aggressive style.

While he brought down Democratic Party bosses across the state during his seven-year turn as U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christie as governor eagerly collaborated with those who still retained their grip on the political machinery.

His relationship with Norcross began with quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiations that evolved into a warm partnership publicly celebrated at news conferences.

Norcross and his allies, particularly Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, delivered crucial Democratic votes on the key Christie achievements, such as legislation forcing public employees to pay more for health and pension benefits or a law limiting annual property-tax hikes to 2 percent.

Christie also relied on his relationship with Democratic Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, which some say took root in 2002, when then-U.S. Attorney Christie took the unusual step of writing a letter declaring that DiVincenzo was not a target of a federal grand jury investigation into Essex County government.

When Christie was pushing for stricter rules on arbitration awards for police and fire union contracts, Christie turned DiVincenzo into a de facto lobbyist. During a heated legislative session, DiVincenzo persuaded Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver — who is also DiVincenzo’s underling in her job as an assistant Essex County administrator — to withdraw a weaker version of the bill.

Christie rewarded DiVincenzo with influence and largess — a new senior center in Belleville, $4 million to finance a new technology wing at the Essex County Vocational Center, $7 million in Port Authority aid for a new waterfront park in Newark.

DiVincenzo returned the favor by publicly endorsing Christie’s reelection. Christie praised DiVincenzo as a bold bipartisan leader and refused to distance himself from DiVincenzo after the state Election Law Enforcement Commission charged him with using his campaign account for personal items such as trips to Puerto Rico and gym memberships. His lawyer denies that they were personal expenses.

“The person who controls the budget is the governor,” DiVincenzo said in April, distilling the bottom-line dynamic of their relationship. “When you want to get things done, you go to the governor.”

Christie’s relationship with these two Democratic leaders effectively doomed Buono’s chances. DiVincenzo deployed the Essex campaign machinery for Christie. Norcross, Sweeney and the Democratic allies focused almost entirely on the legislative races. And their vaunted fundraising machine produced only token support for Buono.

Christie’s legendary clashes with teachers and other public employee unions helped make him a hero among Republican audiences, but he also quietly courted trade unions, including those who backed Corzine in the 2009 race.

Only a few months after Christie took office, in mid-2010, a group of labor leaders found themselves at the governor’s mansion in Princeton, listening to the new Republican governor deliver his pitch.

“He said he wants to be our friend,” said Ray Pocino, the powerful leader of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, recalling Christie’s overture. “You know of any legislation that is important to you? You tell me what the reasons are and I’ll do what I can to make it happen.”

Christie’s biggest prize was Pocino’s Laborers Union of 20,000 members. Christie grabbed the endorsement last December — even before the Democrats had settled on a nominee.

 

Shortly after Christie’s election, Pocino, who serves as a commissioner on both the Turnpike and Port Authority boards, publicly criticized Christie for canceling construction on a long-planned second rail tunnel under the Hudson River in 2011.

But that disappointment was smoothed over by Christie’s decision to spend money dedicated to the project to replenish the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which finances road and rail projects, and other large-scale projects, such as the raising of the Bayonne Bridge and repairs to the Pulaski Skyway.

“That’s going to create a hell of a lot more jobs,” Pocino said. And Christie’s support for tax incentives to revive the American Dream mall in the Meadowlands and the stalled Revel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City also won labor support.

The Laborers signaled that they intend to invest in Christie’s future — they donated $300,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie is set to lead next year.

Pocino’s members comprise the hard-hat crews on construction sites. For this election, the Laborers and scores of Democrats from city halls to the State House helped pave the road for Christie’s reelection and his future. It is a road paved with the tried-and-true political macadam of horse-trading and alliances of convenience.

 

Star Ledger - Despite Christie’s  Win, Democrats Retain Control of the Legislature

Matt Friedman/The Star-Ledger By Matt Friedman/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 06, 2013 at 12:30 AM

TRENTON — Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly withstood Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s decisive victory over Barbara Buono on Tuesday, retaining majorities in both houses of the Legislature and ensuring at least four more years of divided government in Trenton.

With most of the votes counted Tuesday night, Democrats said they would hold onto their 24-16 majority in the state Senate. They also appeared to hold a majority in the Assembly — currently 48 to 32 — though they lost at least one seat.

The victories were a consolation prize and a huge relief to Democrats who feared Christie’s potential coattails could not be measured.

“The people of this state don’t want a Republican Legislature,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) from his election night party in Deptford. “They don’t want a rubber-stamp for Chris Christie.”

Democrats have controlled both houses of the Legislature since 2004. While Christie has gotten some big agenda items working with Democrats, some of his other plans may be thwarted. He may also continue to have a hard time remaking the Supreme Court and reversing decades of precedents that frustrated Republicans on affordable housing and school funding. Two of his nominees have been stymied by Senate Democrats.

Democrats easily won re-election to the state Senate in other hotly contested districts. Sweeney and his two Assembly running mates defeated a slate of Republicans led by attorney Niki Trunk, who was recruited by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union).

Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex) will succeed Buono in her state Senate seat in the 18th District. And Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) appeared to have survived a challenge from former state Sen. Peter Inverso.

State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) had little problem fending off a challenge from Republican Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles, though the district’s Assembly races were too close to call.

And state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) will return after vanquishing Republican Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt. But his running mate, Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland), was defeated by Republican Sam Fiocchi. The Star-Ledger reported in 2012 that Albano used his position to attempt to get out of a traffic ticket. Van Drew’s other running mate, Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak (D-Cape May), a wounded war veteran, appeared to hold onto his seat.
negative ads

From the start, top Democrats including South Jersey power broker George Norcross helped channel millions of dollars from organized labor into a super PAC — the Fund for Jobs, Growth & Security — that tarnished Republican candidates with negative advertisements.

“This was truly a lonely landslide.” Jonathan Levy, the PAC’s executive director, said of Christie’s big victory.

As Norcross put it: “These are the rules of the game today, and the way in which you need to compete.”

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), said he was “shocked at the amount of money the Democrats were able to spend on races. They spent millions and millions and millions.”

Democrats were also helped by a favorable legislative district map they installed two years ago after a redistricting fight with Republicans.

But Democratic attorney Bill Castner — a key architect of that map — said while it helped, the Democratic campaigns and national Republicans’ tarnished image did more.

“The Republican brand right now nationally is hurting Republicans not named Chris Christie in New Jersey,” Castner said. “When you look at the Republican record on issues like gun violence, public schools, the millionaires tax and environmental issues, there seems to be more and more of a disconnect between the party and New Jersey and legislative Republicans are suffering because of that.”

Christie will never again be on the same ballot as the state Legislature. For Republicans, if they were going to take control during this decade, it most likely would have been this year, experts say.

“If they can’t gain it now with the size of the governor’s win, there’s no chance that they’re going to gain it,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray.
unresolved race

At least one race was left unresolved Tuesday night. Although Democrats said state Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) narrowly beat Republican Fernando Alonso in the 38th District, the race for Assembly was too close to call in that district.

Star-Ledger staff writer Salvador Rizzo contributed to this report.

 


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