What Tuesday Means for New Jersey

There are only 18 Democratic governors left across the nation, and the survivors have some theories about why Democrats have been swept out of statehouses all over the country in recent years.

Many of the remaining Democrats are blaming an unpopular president.

In New Jersey on the other hand Democrats picked up four Assembly seats, widening their advantage to 52-28. The Senate is also controlled by Democrats.

State Republicans’ also have theories why New Jersey is bucking the national trend with remaining Republicans blaming an unengaged Governor Christie.

Overall, incumbents were widely re-elected to the Assembly with only a handful of Republican legislators losing to their Democratic challengers. Democrats picked up 4 seats bringing their total to 52, their largest majority in over 30 years. Republicans held onto 28 seats (down from 32). Below are brief summaries of races where at least one new individual was elected to the General Assembly.

–        First Legislative District: ATLANTIC (part) – CAPE MAY – CUMBERLAND (part) Counties

Republican incumbent Sam Fiocchi was defeated by Democrats R. Bruce Land. Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak was re-elected.

–        Fifth Legislative District: CAMDEN (part) – GLOUCESTER (part) Counties

Democrats Arthur Barclay and Patricia Egan Jones handily defeated their Republican opponents, Kevin Ehret and Keith Walker. They will replace outgoing Democratic Assemblymen Gilbert Wilson and Angel Fuetes.

–        Eighth Legislative District: ATLANTIC (part) – BURLINGTON (part) – CAMDEN (part) Counties

Republican Joe Howarth joins his running mate incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg in the Assembly. Both ran unopposed. Howarth is replacing retiring Republican Assemblyman Christopher Brown.

–        Eleventh Legislative District: MONMOUTH (part) Counties

Democrats Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey narrowly beat their incumbent Republican competitors Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande.

–        Sixteenth Legislative District: HUNTERDON (part) – MERCER (part) – MIDDLESEX (part) – SOMERSET (part) Counties

At the time of writing, Democrat Andrew Zwicker was leading incumbent Republican challenger Donna Simon by 29 votes, making it the tightest Assembly race. However, provisional ballots are still being counted, a process that will last until Friday November 6. From there, the losing candidate has until November 14 to file for a  recount. Republican incumbent Jack Ciattarelli was re-elected.

–        Twenty-Second Legislative District: MIDDLESEX (part) – SOMERSET (part) – UNION (part) Counties

Democrat James Kennedy was elected to replace retiring Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender. Democratic incumbent Jerry Green was re-elected.

–        Twenty-Fourth Legislative District: MORRIS (part) – SUSSEX – WARREN (part) Counties

Republican Gail Phoebus was elected to replace retiring Republican Assemblywoman Alison McHose. Incumbent Republican F. Parker Space was re-elected.

–        Thirty-First Legislative District: HUDSON (part) Counties

With no incumbents running for re-election in the district, Democrats Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti handily defeated their Republican opponents. They are replacing retiring Democratic Assemblymen Jason O’Donnell and Charles Mainor.

–        Thirty-Third Legislative District: HUDSON (part) Counties

Democrat Annette Chaparro was elected to replace retiring Democratic Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia. Incumbent Democrat Raj Mukherji was re-elected.

In terms of county elections below is a brief summary of newly elected individuals and ballot question results:

–        Atlantic County

Republican Maureen Kern was elected as the 2nd District’s Freeholder. The Republicans swept the elections in Atlantic County and were able to easily maintain their majority on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Incumbents Dennis Levinson, James Curcio, Frank Formica, and James Bertino were re-elected.

–        Burlington County

Republicans Kate Gibbs and Ryan Peters were elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders, defeating Democratic incumbents Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz. As such, Democrats lost their majority on the board.

–        Camden County

Democrats Susan Angulo and William Moen Jr. join Democratic incumbents Jeffrey Nash and Jonathan Young Sr. on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Camden also elected Democrat Gilbert “Whip” Wilson to the position of Sheriff, replacing outgoing Sheriff Charles Billingham.

–        Cumberland County

Newly elected Democrat James Quinn joins Cumberland’s Board of Chosen Freeholders. Incumbent Joseph Derella was re-elected. Overall, Democrats preserve their 4-3 majority.

–        Middlesex County

74% of individuals voted yes to the Public Question “Shall the governing body of the County of Middlesex prioritize funding to programs which provide transportation services for individuals in need of dialysis, chemotherapy or other regular medical services as a means of offsetting recent federal and state funding cuts?”

–        Morris County

Republican newcomers Christine Myers and Deborah Smith, and incumbent Republican John Cesaro were (re) elected to the Morris’ Board of Chosen Freeholders.

–        Passaic County

Democrats swept Passiac County’s Freeholder elections. Newly elected Cassandra Lazzara and incumbents John Bartlett and Hector Lora allowed Democrats to retain control of the board.

–        Salem County

Republican Melissa DeCastro and Democrat Charles V. Hassler remain in an extremely tight race, with DeCastro leading by 11 votes. At the time of writing, provisional ballots were being counted. Regardless of the outcome of this race, Republicans will retain control of the board.

So, the New Jersey Legislature now enters a lame-duck session after this week’s elections with several key questions still needing to be answered.

Among them: – Funding the New Jersey Pension- Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Omnicre- Out-of-Network, and most critically– Funding for the Transportation Trust Fund.

Serious conversations about raising New Jersey’s gas tax to head off a looming transportation-funding crisis were put on hold earlier this year, so lawmakers could focus on the Assembly elections that were just held in all 40 legislative districts earlier this week. But now with those contests in the rearview mirror, the talk in Trenton has shifted back to transportation.

Lawmakers from both parties said yesterday that they are willing to strike a bipartisan deal to renew the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road, bridge, and rail improvements throughout the state, using revenue from the gas tax and other sources, including from borrowing.

The lawmakers also seem to be in agreement that any deal they strike on transportation funding will likely have to involve raising the state’s 14.5-cent gas tax to bring in new revenue, since all of the money coming in from the gas tax is going to pay down debt. The trust fund is also up against its borrowing limit and only has enough money to make it until the end of June 2016.

There are also signs of hope that lawmakers in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats, will find common ground on the transportation-funding issue as well. They recently came together to pass a resolution supporting a plan to share costs with the federal government on a new Hudson River train tunnel. But how to convince Christie, who has signed an anti-tax pledge as a GOP presidential candidate this year, to agree to a tax hike in the middle of his presidential campaign remains a big concern. When the issue came up during his monthly call-in radio show on NJ 101.5 FM earlier this week, Christie was noncommittal, saying only that he hasn’t dismissed a gas-tax hike outright.

Lastly, the State must deal with Governor Christie’s Cabinet/Staff Changes that include:

  • Richard Badolato was formally nominated as Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance. He has served as Acting Commissioner since August of this year.
  • Ford Scudder, COO of Laffer Associates, will be nominated to the position of State Treasurer. Current Acting Treasurer, Robert Romano, will be responsible for management and operation of Treasury activities.
  • Richard Hammer, Assistant Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, will become that department’s Acting Commissioner. He replaces Jamie Fox.

With it all, there remains the question of how committed Christie will be to solving New Jersey issues as long as he remains in the hunt as a presidential hopeful. Christie is pushing in New Hampshire, where the primary is not held until February.

Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., is senior director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC.

Duane Morris Government Strategies (DMGS) supports the growth of organizations, companies, communities and economies through a suite of government and business consulting services. The firm offers a range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant writing; development finance consulting, media relations management, grassroots campaigning and community outreach. Milita works at the firm’s Trenton and Newark New Jersey offices.

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

Follow him on twitter: @MartinMilita1




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