It’s not unusual just before a General Election that hot button issues pop up, that some underrated concern becomes more significant and certain races become closer. So while pundits and pollsters continue to talk about the public’s apathy and lack of engagement, our Democratic turn out becomes all the more crucial.
Although Phil Murphy retains the best chance of winning the gubernatorial race with his more than double-digit poll advantage, his opponent Kim Guadagno is playing the Trump message, with her positions on guns, the flag, policing, and most recently immigration and sanctuary cities. On these matters she provides motivation for die-hard Trump supporters to rush to the polls. Such can influence not only the gubernatorial race but contests further down the ballot. In blue New Jersey Hillary Clinton handily won the presidential race with 2.1 million votes, but we can’t ignore that Trump received 1.6 million votes.
The two biggest Democratic contributors to legislative races have traditionally been the NJEA and George Norcross (General Majority PAC). Unfortunately, these two groups have engaged in a war in LD 3 with NJEA attacking Democratic Senate President Sweeney and Norcross supporting him. By election day the final expenditures will exceed $16 million – money not available for other LD races. Still it has been the most expensive overall legislative election in state history with last-minute ads in numerous districts.
Below are some of the legislative districts where high Democratic turnout could make the difference. If you are not sure in which district you reside go here and enter your municipality.
- LD 2: With the resignation and later death of the highly respected Sen. Whelan (D), Assemblyman Colin Bell (D) was appointed interim senator and is now running for the position. Current Assemblyman Chris Brown (R) is the challenger and is waging a fierce race in a historically competitive district. At the same time there is a close race in Atlantic City where the Democratic party is trying to oust Mayor Don Guardian (R) with Frank Gilliam (D) – a contest that would make Nucky Johnson proud..
- LD 3: Incumbent Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) is challenged by the little-known Fran Grenier (R). While Sweeney remains the likely winner, so much money is sloshing through the district that it is hard to be totally sure of what will happen.
- LD 11: Vin Gopal (D), currently an Assemblyman and former county chair, is challenging tough incumbent Jennifer Beck (R) in a fierce and expensive senatorial race. In the Assembly Eric Houghtaling (D) and Joann Downey (D) are trying to keep the seats they picked up two years ago, but face challengers Robert Acerra (R) and Michael Whelan (R).
- LD 14: Incumbent Senator Linda Greenstein (D) faces Ileana Schirmer (R) in a district where the voting is often close.
- LD 16: In a district where shifting demographics have helped Democrats, incumbent Sen. Kip Bateman (R) is challenged by Laurie Poppe (D). Incumbent Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D) faces Donna Simon (R), whom he narrowly ousted as assemblywoman in 2015, and Mark Calaguire (R).
- LD 24: It’s seldom easy to beat an incumbent but the much-disgraced Assemblyman Parker Space (R), defiant after appearing in a photo with a Confederate flag, (bracketed with Harold Wirths) is a ripe target. In this heavily Republican district it will be quite a coup if challengers Kate Matteson (D) or Gina Trish(D) win.
- LD 39: In another Republican district arch-conservative Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R), who has been in the Assembly for 38 years, faces Linda H. Schwager (D). For Assembly Annie Hausmann (D) and Jannie Chung (D) face incumbents Robert Auth (R) and Holly Schepisi (R). This all-women Democratic slate has had support from major Democratic names in the state.
- LD 40: In a district just leaning Republican with the departure of Sen. O’Toole (R), Kristin Corrado (R) was picked as the interim replacement so she is the incumbent and facing Thomas Duch (D).
Among the two worthwhile Public Questions, the one most in danger of losing is the plan to borrow $125 million to aid our public libraries.
Your comments on other close races or issues are welcome.