2013, like most gubernatorial election years, will see a higher voter turnout then state legislative midterm years (i.e. 2011, 2007, 2003) but a smaller turnout rate than presidential election years. While New Jersey gubernatorial elections typically produce only about 75% of the turnout that presidential elections experience, state legislative midterm elections in New Jersey average about 75% of that of the preceding gubernatorial election (since 1972). This means that one out of four citizens who vote for the federal executive do not do so for the state executive the following year and one out of every four people who case a vote for governor do not do so for the state legislature just two years later. To give some perspective let’s look at the last few election cycles in New Jersey. In 2008, 73% of registered NJ voters voted in the presidential election while in 2009 only 47% of registered NJ voters voted in the gubernatorial election. That means that only 64.5% of voters in 2008 voted again in 2009. In 2011, an abysmally low 27% of registered voters voted in the state legislative midterm election which means that only 58% of NJ voters in 2009 voted again in 2011 and 37% of NJ voters in 2008 voted in 2011. In 2012, 67% of registered NJ voters voted in the presidential election which means that in 2013 approximately 50% of registered NJ voters will vote in the gubernatorial election (approximately 2.8 million voters).
Since the 1947 constitution, governors have appeared on the ballot 17 times, and in 10 of those elections the governors party has either gained seats or at least maintained their level of party support in both chambers of the legislature. In four instances, the governor’s party had mixed success, gaining seats in one chamber, while losing seats in the other. And only three times has a governor won election while his (and her) party lost seats in both chambers. On average, the governor’s party tends to pick up one or two seats in the Senate and about six seats in the Assembly.
2013 will be a very different election year than 2011 or 2009. For one thing Chris Christie was not on the ballot in 2011 and in 2009 he was a much less well-known figure than he is today. Due to his high favorability ratings (somewhere in the low 70s) and past electoral trends in New Jersey it seems quite likely that at least a few incumbent Democratic legislators will lose re-election in 2013 due, in part, to Christie’s coattails. Currently, 24 out of 40 NJ Senators are Democrats (60%) while 48 out of 80 NJ state Assembly-members are Democrats (60%). Due to the redistricting that took place in 2011 (where the Democratic map was chosen by tie-breaker Alan Rosenthal) it is almost certain that the NJ Senate and NJ General Assembly will remain in Democratic control until at least 2022 (when the next State Legislative map will be implemented). The question then becomes, how many and which Democratic legislators will lose re-election in 2013?
It looks like anywhere between 2-6 Democratic Assembly-members and 1-3 Democratic Senators could lose re-election (which would still preserve Democratic majorities in both chambers). This largely depends on Republican turnout and the strength of the Republican opponents in the competitive Legislative Districts. It’s extremely unlikely that any Democrats will be able to beat incumbent Republican legislators running for re-election this year with Christie at the top of the ticket (most of these Districts are gerrymandered for Republicans to win any way). Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick are apparently targeting LD-1, LD-2, LD-3, LD-4, LD-7, LD-18, LD-27 and LD-38 as their best chances to regain majorities in the Senate and Assembly. Based on the election results of 2011 (when the new State Legislative map was implemented) the following are the most vulnerable Democratic State Assembly-members and State Senators up for re-election in 2013 (in order of vulnerability based on % margin of victory over the best performing Republican candidate in their District in 2011):
1) Assemblyman Matthew Milam (NJ-1), won by +1.18 percentage points
2) Assemblyman Troy Singleton (NJ-7), won by +1.38 percentage points
3) Assemblyman Herb Conaway (NJ-7), won by +1.93 percentage points
4) Assemblyman Tim Eustace (NJ-38), won by +2.45 percentage points
5) Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (NJ-3), won by +3.81 percentage points
6) Assemblywoman Connie Wager (NJ-38), won by +3.86 percentage points
7) Assemblyman Nelson Albano (NJ-1), won by +4.09 percentage points
8) Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (NJ-27), won by +4.65 percentage points
9) Assemblyman John Burzichelli (NJ-3), won by +5.17 percentage points
10) Assemblyman John McKeon (NJ-27), won by +5.55 percentage points
11) Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (NJ-18), won by +6.38 percentage points
12) Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (NJ-5), won by +6.51 percentage points
13) Assemblyman Peter Barnes (NJ-18), won by +6.56 percentage points*
14) Assemblyman Gilbert Wilson (NJ-5), won by +6.81 percentage points
15) Assemblyman Daniel Benson (NJ-14), won by +7.12 percentage points
16) Assemblyman Jerry Green (NJ-22), won by +7.96 percentage points
17) Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (NJ-36), won by +8.11 percentage points
18) Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (NJ-14), won by +8.17 percentage points
19) Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (NJ-4), won by +8.38 percentage points
20) Assemblyman Linda Stender (NJ-22), won by +9.49 percentage points
21) Assemblyman Gary Schaer (NJ-36), won by +9.77 percentage points
22) Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (NJ-4), won by +10.05 percentage points
*Asm. Barnes is not running for re-election to the State Assembly in 2013, instead he’s running for State Senate.
1) Senator Robert Gordon (NJ-38), won by +6.08 percentage points
2) Senator Jim Whelan (NJ-2), won by +6.82 percentage points
3) Senator Jeff Van Drew (NJ-1), won by +8.14 percentage points
4) Senator Linda Greenstein (NJ-14), won by +10.62 percentage points
5) Senator Stephen Sweeney (NJ-3), won by +11.22 percentage points
The Republicans would have to win 9 Assembly seats and 5 Senate seats to regain majorities in both chambers and that seems extremely unlikely. The most at-risk Democratic Legislative District delegations are LD-1, LD-2, LD-7, and LD-38 (with Stephen Sweeney and Dick Codey at the top of the tickets in LD-3 and LD-27, respectively, it seems unlikely that the Assembly-members in those Districts would lose re-election). If all the Democratic incumbents in those Districts lose re-election it would result in a Democratic majority of 21-19 in the Senate and 42-38 in the Assembly. The one down side to losing Democratic seats in both chambers is that the Democratic Legislature would lose the ability to propose an amendment to the State Constitution and put the referendum on the ballot the same year with a three-fifths vote in each house (the Democrats have exactly three-fifths of the votes in the Assembly and Senate). It would still, however, be able to propose an amendment by a simple majority vote in two consecutive years and then place the referendum on the ballot. The State Legislative map that was passed in 2011 was made to ensure that a Democratic majority would remain in the Legislature for the next decade, even when an extremely popular Republican Governor is at the top of the ticket. We shall see what the results are come this November…