Midterm issues: Part XI – Important legislative races and a Public Question 

Midterm elections for the Senate and House of Representatives are grabbing our attention big time. However, this year there are more open seats in our state legislature than normal.  Nine Assembly seats and one Senate seat are on the ballot. There is also one Public Question on the ballot. Down-ballot items are often ignored. However failure of Democrats to turn out and vote on these local races and the Public Question could result in an unpleasant surprise.

STATE SENATE  RACE  (* Denotes an incumbent)

Thirty-Eighth Legislative District: BERGEN (part) – PASSAIC (part) Counties: JOSEPH A LAGANA* (D); DAISY ORTIZ BERGER (R).

GENERAL ASSEMBLY RACE   (* Denotes an incumbent)

  • Fifth Legislative District: CAMDEN (part) – GLOUCESTER (part) Counties: WILLIAM W. SPEARMAN* (D); NICHOLAS KUSH (R).
  • Fifteenth Legislative District: HUNTERDON – MERCER Counties: Two seats are up for grabs: VERLINA REYNOLDS-JACKSON* (D); TRACY R. SINATRA (R);  EDWARD FORCHION (I) (REPEAL BAIL REFORM). and ANTHONY VERRELLI* (D); JUSTIN TIBBETTS (R); ALEX BETHEA (I) (INTEGRITY, TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY).
  • Twenty-Second Legislative District: MIDDLESEX (part) – SOMERSET (part) – UNION (part) Counties: LINDA CARTER* (D); JOHN QUATTROCCHI (R).
  • Thirty-Second Legislative District: BERGEN (part) – HUDSON (part): counties: PEDRO MEJIA (D); no GOP candidate.
  • Thirty-Fourth Legislative District: ESSEX (part) – PASSAIC (part) Counties: BRITNEE N. TIMBERLAKE* (D); IRENE DEVITA (R); CLENARD HOWARD CHILDRESS JR (I) (STOP THE INSANITY).
  • Thirty-Sixth Legislative District: BERGEN (part) – PASSAIC (part) Counties: CLINTON CALABRESE* (D); MARC MARSI (R).
  • Thirty-Eighth Legislative District: BERGEN – PASSAIC Counties: Two seats are up for grabs: CHRISTOPHER TULLY* (D); JAYME OUELLETTE (R). and LISA SWAIN* (D); GAIL HORTON (R).

LEGISLATIVE RACE ISSUES

With these races the few issues seem almost insignificant. NJ Spotlight points out, Because these legislative seats were vacated by Democrats, and all the interim appointments are made by the Democratic county leadership, all the incumbents in the special races are Democrats. Virtually every race is taking place in areas where the voter registration rolls heavily favor Democrats. Republican challengers, sometimes sacrificial lambs, have probably found it disheartening, difficult or not worth the effort to launch a substantial issues-oriented campaign. In addition, with the demise of local reporting and this cycle’s emphasis on the House & Senate candidates, there is very little news about these races. 

In the Senate LD 38 race Joseph Lagana has the advantage of being a three-term member of the state Assembly. He won this position over his fellow Democrat and district mate Assemblyman Tim Eustace to replace Sen. Robert Gordon in this Special Election. He has raised $433,700. His challenger Daisy Ortiz (R) has raised $1,800 – so little that whatever her issues may be, she is getting no attention from the press and there is little or no reporting on the race.    

Probably the most famous or infamous candidate is Edward Forchion (LD 15), aka NJ Weedman, running as an Independent. He says, “I think I am popular in the city,” but even he will have a tough race against the Democratic machine. Also in LD 15 Tracy Sinatra (R) is calling for lower property taxes and Justin Tibbetts says he will be a “voice for the people,” but both candidate have spent less than $6,000 on their campaign. Forchion has submitted no financial report to ELEC. 

The Senate currently has 25 D’s, 15 R’s and no vacancies. The House has 26 R’s and 54 D’s with no vacancies. It is unlikely that the election results will make much of a change in this composition. You can find how much each candidate has received and spent at the ELEC site here, but good luck on trying to find news on these campaigns. Some additional but limited information is available here.

Tuesday’s Public Question

PUBLIC QUESTION: SECURING OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE BOND ACT 

This question which appears on your ballot asks voters if you want to approve the state borrowing $500 million. 

  • Three hundred fifty million dollars would support county vocational school district projects and school security projects. 
  • Fifty million dollars would support county college projects.
  • One hundred million dollars would support school district water infrastructure improvement projects.

The Legislature’s initial bill proposal was for $1million, but Gov. Murphy conditionally vetoed it and reduced it to $500,000 to which the Legislature acquiesced. Murphy said, the $1 billion figure was too costly for the state and noted the state’s debt service is already more than $4 billion. There appears to be no concerted effort to defeat the proposal.

In spite of the lack of controversial issues, excitement or reporting, it’s still important to cast your vote on this question and on any candidates in a legislative race in your district.

Due to the scarcity of reporting, please share your own additional insights on these matters with us. 

Prior issues in this series are SALT (Part I), Healthcare (Part II), Climate Change (Part III), The Trump Factor (Part IV), Immigration (Part V), “Follow the Money” (Part VI), Gun Control, Festering and Frustrating (Part VII), Menendez has beliefs; Hugin has none (Part VIII), Recent issues to sway voters and incentivize turn out (Part IX), and The tsunami of outside spending including “dark money” (Part X).

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