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11-9-11 In the News - Nov 8th State & Local Elections

The Record - Christie’s pull fails to change balance in State House

Star Ledger - Gov. Christie's efforts to boost GOP's chances in legislative elections fall short

2011 Post Election Analysis –

Courtesy of Princeton Public Affairs Group  

Millions Spent as Democrats Net One Seat in the State Assembly

Before Tuesday’s election, Democrats held a 47-33 majority in the Assembly and a 26-14 majority in theSenate. This morning, the day after the election and after millions of dollarshad been spent, the Democrats extended their majority by one in the Assembly to48-32 and will return with the same numbers, 24-16, in the Senate.

The low turnout election—less than 33%—produced a status quo election, although theunder-story will be talked about for some time. Despite the selection of theDemocratic legislative redistricting map in the Spring, the State GOP and itslegislative caucuses played offense in several legislative districts includingDistricts 2, 7, 14 and 38. The Democrats best offensive opportunities were Districts 2, 4 and 11.

Although the opportunities forboth parties were few, bragging rights and the momentum that goes along withwinning provided an intense level of partisanship that carried all the way upto yesterday’s election. Governor Christie led the charge in raisingmoney for the GOP apparatus and lent his name and presence to numerouslegislative fundraisers that provided more money than the GOP has seen in overa decade. Although the Governor talked in terms of a historic result that wouldproduce a net gain for his team, something rare in a mid-term election for a sitting Governor, the possibility of gains was down-played as the election approached.

The Democrats used their strong fundraising base and an incumbent protected legislative district map to repel the Republicans in every key race. Despite Democrat polling that showed a verypopular Governor in the targeted districts, the Governor’s popularity didnot extend to the legislative races. In fact, the only change in party controlof a seat occurred in District 3 where incumbent Republican Anthony DiCiccolost his bid for re-election after his hometown was removed from District 4.

Today, the early morning chatter predictably has the Democrats suggesting that the inability of the Republicans to pick up seats is a rebuke to the Governor and the GOP’s first two years. The Republicans counter that the chances of picking up seats in amid-term was unlikely and that the races were fought based on very“local” issues.

New Jersey voters did approvesports betting by a significant margin (65%), setting the stage for furtherexpansion of gaming in New Jersey. The Governor had vowed to work with SenatorRay Lesniak to bring sports betting to New Jersey if the referendum passed.

The stage is now set for the Lame Duck Session of the Legislature where some unfinished business will be conducted including education reform. The new Session will start on Tuesday,January 10.

Here is a look at some of the key results from Tuesday:

State Legislative Elections

District 2 (Atlantic)

State Senate incumbent JimWhelan (D) defeated Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R) while the twoRepublican Assembly candidates, Assemblyman John Amodeo and Chris Brownbeat their Democratic challengers, Alisa Cooper (D) and Damon Tyner(D). 

The State Senate race between Polistina,the owner of an engineering firm who is the Assemblyman in the district, and Whelan,a teacher, had developed into a vicious negative campaign battle that playeditself out in the mailbox and on the airwaves. Despite support from the Mayorof Atlantic City, a Democrat, Polistina was unable to topple the popularincumbent. Senator Whelan said last night that the race was never asclose as the media had portrayed it over the past few weeks. 

District 7 (Burlington)

State Senate incumbent DianeAllen (R) defeated Gail Cook (D).

State Assembly candidate Troy Singleton (D) and seven-term incumbent Herb Conaway (D) defeated ChristopherHalgas (R) and James “Jim” Keenan (R). 

Republicans thought they had alate breaking opportunity despite the district’s Democratic leanings.With a popular Republican Allen at the top of the ticket, this racebecame a focus late in the campaign season. However, the Democrats ability torespond with a strong television buy and a solid election day ground game,allowed union representative Singleton and incumbent AssemblymanConaway to win comfortably.

District 14 (Middlesex and Mercer)

State Senate incumbent LindaGreenstein (D) defeated Richard Kanka (R).

State Assembly incumbents DanielR. Benson (D) and Wayne P. DeAngelo (D) defeated Sheree McGowan (R)and Wayne Wittman (R).

Kanka, a prominent figureand father of Megan’s Law’s namesake, was a formidable opponentagainst the incumbent Greenstein. However, the district is home to thelargest concentration of public employees who came out to support SenatorGreenstein who was a steadfast opponent of the Governor’s pension andhealth reforms. Kanka failed to carry Hamilton, his hometown, which iskey to any Republican hope of winning this district.

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

Robert Gordon (D) defeatedBergen County Freeholder John Driscoll, Jr. (R) for State Senator. 

Mayor Timothy J. Eustace(D) and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D) defeated Richard S. Goldberg(R) and Fernando A. Alonso (R).

This race became ground zero forthe 2011 election season. The district had some significant changes for theincumbent, Bob Gordon and his team, as a result of re-districting. TheRepublicans countered with Bergen County Freeholder John Driscoll withthe hope that Republican gains at the county level

over the last two yearswould provide enough momentum to capture this Bergen County legislative seat.Both candidates were well-funded and made use of extensive volunteer networks.In the end, Senator Gordon was able to knit together the variousconstituent groups that he has supported policy–wise over the years togain an impressive win in the signature race of the season

Key County Races


Long time incumbent RepublicanDennis Levinson and the Republican county ticket edged Democrat Thomas C. Foleyfor the County Executive race despite Senator Whalen’s victory inDistrict 2.  


After two years of solid gains atthe county level by Republicans, the Democrats scored significant wins byholding both freeholder slots.  Three-term incumbent David Ganz andrunning mate, Assemblywoman Joan Voss, defeated their Republican challengers.In addition, the Democrats held the Surrogates Office and picked up the CountyClerk’s Office by defeating former Assemblywoman Lisa Randall who wasappointed to the Clerk’s position when former County Clerk KathleenDonovan was elected to be County Executive last year.


It appears that Republicans mayhave gained control in this southern county.  The Democrats currentlycontrol the Freeholder Board, 4-3. Pending the tabulation of the mail-inballots and a likely recount, Mary Gruccio’s win will swing control tothe GOP, 4-3.


Despite Senate President SteveSweeney stepping down as Gloucester County Freeholder Director at the end oflast year, this year, Democrats swept Republican challengers for three openseats to re-establish their dominant majority. A sweep by the Republicans wouldhave switched control. The Gloucester County Freeholder board was 5-2 lastyear.


Both County Executive BrianHughes and GOP challenger Jonathan Savage focused on economic issues ahead ofyesterday's election. In the end, Brian Hughes prevailed over Savagemaintaining the Democrats dominance over the county government over the pastdecade.


Democrats in Passaic beat outtheir Republican opposition by holding onto both seats. A loss by the Democratswould have switched control to the Republicans. Democrats have held a 4-3majority on the Freeholder Board for the last 13 years.

Key Ballot Questions

Sports Wagering

Voters approved, by a 65-35 margin,the only statewide ballot question to amend the State Constitution. Thereferendum asked if residents are in favor for permitting wagering on variousathletic events at certain racetracks and in casinos and gambling houses.

Princeton’s Ballot Question

After three failed attempts overnearly 60 years, Princeton Township and Princeton Borough will consolidate.  These two neighborhoods are known as “doughnut towns” because one town (Princeton Township) wraps around the other(Princeton Borough).  Governor Christie fully supported the measure. The towns will reportedly save $3.2 million annually after the merger is completed.

The Record - Christie’s pull fails to change balance in State House

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 Last Updated: Wednesday November 9, 2011, 10:12 Am

By John Reitmeyer,  State House Bureau

Keep up with New Jersey politics with The Source



Go to northjersey.com/elections for complete results and additional coverage.

New Jersey’s Legislature will look like it does now in 2012 — and not much will change for Governor Christie in Trenton — even though legislative candidates spent a combined $25 million on campaigns this fall.

The state Senate and Assembly will each reconvene in January with largely the same, Democratic-controlled lineups as a result of Tuesday’s election.

Once seen as a possible GOP candidate for U.S. president — and still viewed as a force in national Republican politics — Christie was unable to persuade voters in New Jersey to ditch incumbent Democrats in most districts and make the Legislature measurably more Republican two years into his first term.

Instead, in the 40-member Senate Democrats will retain the same 24-16 majority in 2012 that they had this year thanks to two incumbents — including Bergen County’s Robert Gordon — scoring victories against Christie-backed Republican challengers.

“Our win tonight is a win for independent leadership,” Gordon said in his victory speech. “It’s a win for everyone who wants Trenton to serve the needs of working families.”

The 80-member Assembly will also reconvene in 2012 with Demo­crats in control. The 47-33 majority enjoyed by Democrats this year was expected to change only slightly in 2012.

Christie also injected himself into several Assembly contests in an effort to move that house further to the right, including the 38th District in North Jersey, where Gordon’s running mates also prevailed.

Bergen County Freeholder John Driscoll lost to Gordon, despite the help from Christie. Driscoll personally thanked Christie and his staff — Christie dispatched three campaign aides to work on the race.

“What you did was sent shockwaves throughout the state,” Driscoll told his crowd of supporters.

But the governor has often noted that Democrats were likely to hold their ground thanks to legislative districts that were redrawn this year in a way that largely protected incumbents as a result of the legislative redistricting process every 10 years.

In all, legislative candidates spent $24.8 million heading into the last two weeks of the campaign, according to the most recent campaign finance reports available from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement.

The contests for Gordon’s Senate seat and the two 38th District Assembly seats were the second costliest in the state with $3 million spent heading into the final weeks of the campaign, according to the commission. The contests for the 2nd District seats in Atlantic County topped spending in the state with $3.16 million through the end of October.

But that spending doesn’t mean much when it comes to changing the current power dynamic that Christie has to work through to enact his agenda in the State House throughout the rest of his tenure.

The Legislature remains controlled by Democrats who don’t share the same vision for New Jersey as Christie, viewing the issue of education reform differently than the governor and also lacking his zeal for overhauling New Jersey’s weak ethics and campaign finance laws.

Yet, the same Democratic leaders who have shown a willingness to work with Christie when it meets their goals on other issues — such as the 2010 property tax cap and this year’s public employee benefits reforms — remain in place and are likely ready to work with him again in the future.

And though Democrats largely held their ground, they did not have enough votes before the election to override a Christie veto, and they still don’t.

By essentially holding serve Tuesday, the Democrats have also retained the authority to determine which bills get posted for votes, and the Democrats still decide who runs legislative committees that control major issues such as the budget, transportation and economic development.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, won reelection and is expected to return to his leadership post. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, also won reelection and, despite talk of a possible change of heart in her caucus, is also expected to be reelected speaker.

By keeping those two Demo­cratic leaders in place, voters didn’t give the governor the GOP majorities he would ultimately need to adopt his agenda with no resistance. But it also doesn’t hurt Christie much because he’s shown the ability during his first two years in office to get many of his top initiatives through the Democratic Legislature and onto his desk to be signed into law.

Right away in 2010, he was able to persuade lawmakers from both parties to make minor changes to the benefits offered to public employees. Later that year, he secured enough Democratic votes to enact his first budget, and then also persuaded Democratic leadership to strike a deal on the property tax cap he emphasized throughout the first half of 2010.

And this year, although Christie never reached an agreement with Democrats on the budget, he did win enough of their votes to pass the broader public employee pension and health-care reforms that have become the signature issue of the year so far for the governor.

Christie’s work with Democrats on that issue was also used to catapult the governor into the national presidential conversation for several weeks during the late summer, which laid the groundwork for a possible future bid for the White House.

Democrats have complained but also failed to block the governor on cuts to their pet property tax rebates, women’s health care programs and his efforts to privatize many government services.

But Christie has also had his share of losses thanks to the Democrats who control the Legislature and he still has to deal with them in 2012, thanks to voters who decided to keep the Demo­crats in charge.

Democratic legislative leaders have so far been reluctant to embrace Christie’s ethics and education reform ideas, and they immediately blocked his much-touted bid to change the state constitution to ensure judges pay more for their pensions.

A Legislature that is virtually the same doesn’t change much for Christie: Democrats will continue to block the governor when it comes to the bigger issues where they don’t see an advantage for themselves by cooperating.

E-mail: reitmeyer@northjersey.com



Star Ledger - Gov. Christie's efforts to boost GOP's chances in legislative elections fall short

Published: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 10:33 AM

By Matt Friedman/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger

TRENTON — For months, Gov. Chris Christie traveled around the country collecting political I.O.U’s for himself and millions of dollars for the state Republican Party.

He recorded campaign commercials for a few Republicans with a chance of edging their Democratic opponents. He held high-priced fundraisers for them, and in the final days of the campaign he made a handful of public appearances at diners and news conferences.

But it was hardly a full-court press, and the results were disappointing for Republicans. Christie, who followed the election returns at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, did not visit any campaign headquarters.

And rather than consoling and recalibrating a defeated a state Republican Party, he planned to spend most of today in New Hampshire and Boston with supporters of Mitt Romney, whom he has endorsed for the Republican presidential nomination.

"Tomorrow he’s going up to help Mitt Romney," Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the state Democratic chairman, said Tuesday night. "I hope he does for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire what he did for Republicans in New Jersey."

For months, the election in New Jersey held little allure for Christie. After losing the battle over redistricting — something he tried and failed to influence — the fate of the Legislature was largely a foregone conclusion.

As a result, he will spend the next two years the same way he spent the first two — with a Democrat-controlled Legislature.


Shakeup in N.J. Senate, Assembly unlikely in today's election

Sports betting backed by N.J. voters

Princeton Borough, Township approve question to merge towns

"While the election wasn’t a referendum on the governor, the governor really did put a lot of effort into a few key campaigns," said Patrick Murray, the director of polling at Monmouth University. "And he came up with nothing."

That is not to say Christie was expecting a Republican takeover of either chamber, or even making significant gains. To the contrary, he and fellow Republicans tried to set the public’s expectations so low that a gain of one seat in the Senate or Assembly would be seen as a victory.

"He’s hedging his bets in a somewhat schizophrenic manner," Wisniewski said. "We’re going to make history but not that much history. We’re going to make a little history. It’s almost laughable."

Wisniewski circulated a memo to Democrats on Monday detailing how the governor’s coattails came up short.

Christie’s effort at electing Republicans to the Legislature in his first two years in office were the weakest since the 1930s, he said, bringing only one additional Republican with him in 2009; and in a special election in 2010, his party lost a Senate seat.

Republicans, for their part, cited different statistics, pointing out that only one governor in the last 48 years — Jim McGreevey, a Democrat – gained seats during a legislative election midway through a first term.

In the end, the futile Republican campaign could be traced to the failed redistricting process six months ago. Democrats prevailed by winning over the tiebreaker on the redistricting commission, Alan Rosenthal, who supported a map that ensured that Democrats would retain their majority.

Not that Christie didn’t try. He played an active role, going so far as showing up at a New Brunswick hotel where the commissioners were dug in during their final week of mapmaking.

Still, Tom Wilson, a lobbyist and former Republican state chairman, said off-year legislative elections turn on local issues, not the governor.

"It’s what they always are: A district-by-district battle fought over local issues," he said.




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