Election 2023 Post-Mortem

LONG BRANCH – The 11th District in Monmouth County was supposed to be competitive, but it wasn’t.

Democrats easily swept the district, “flipping” two Assembly seats and reelecting state Sen. Vin Gopal. And he knew why:

“That culture war message fell flat. People were like, ‘we don’t want this garbage anymore.'”


Gopal was one of the big winners statewide on Tuesday, getting about 60 percent of the vote in what has been traditionally a Republican county.

Phil Murphy was another winner. Democrats lost no seats in the Senate and will likely gain five seats in the Assembly.

“It feels like a hell of a night,” the governor said as he moved through the crowd of supporters at Gopel’s election night party at Le Club Avenue, a chic restaurant on the Boardwalk.

Winning and losing is not only for candidates, issues count too.

And in that vein, a big loser was the “Parents’ Rights” crusade, which is precisely what Gopal was referring to when he mentioned the culture wars.

Republicans were emboldened all summer and fall, convinced that conservative criticism of public education – everything from books to curriculum to dealing with gay students – gave them a winning hand.

This view was so prevalent, Republicans dreamed about winning control of the Legislature, or at least, one house.

I recall an Assembly candidate in LD-38, Bergen County, saying that parents’ rights were an issue Dems were presenting to Republicans on the proverbial silver platter.

It was common to hear GOP leaders speak of “momentum,”  “fired up” voters and being on the “offensive.”

However, as the results suggested, concern that public schools in New Jersey are too “liberal,” too “woke” and too preoccupied with gender was a view confined to staunch conservatives, not the general voter.

It’s true that “parents’ rights” candidates certainly won some school board seats across the state. That’s important to the cause at hand, but the Republican aim was to use that issue to challenge the “radicals” in Trenton and make gains in the Legislature. It did not happen.

To more fully grasp why it did not happen, we must turn to abortion.

Talk about a winning issue for Democrats – not only in New Jersey, but all over the land.

The problem is obvious. Republicans oppose abortion rights, but the majority of voters do not.

Clearly, Democratic talk of the GOP trying to limit abortion rights if they gained Legislative control resonated with voters – more so than the books kids read in schools.

So, the following statement from Jackie Cornell of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey was no surprise:

“Abortion was on the ballot, and voters understood the stakes. Across New Jersey, voters resoundingly sent a message: protect our reproductive freedom.”

In that vein, the big loser statewide was Ed Durr, or Ed “the Trucker.”

A conservative hero when he won his LD-3 Senate seat in 2021, Durr lost reelection to Democrat John Burzichelli.

Reproductive rights were a big reason why. Democrats seized on offensive social media posts Durr made three years ago about women and abortion. That effort even included a TV ad featuring Loretta Weinberg, the retired state Senator from Bergen County. Weinberg has to be feeling pretty good today – like a winner.

The challenge for Republicans is that this issue is not going away. But the party seems to be trapped, given the fact its base is pro-life.

This brings us to Bob Hugin, the state Republican chair, whose position has to be considered tenuous.

Hugin sent out a message highlighting Republican wins in certain municipalities around the state, among them Bridgewater, Old Bridge, Summit, Westfield, Paramus and Caldwell.

All well and good, but that really wasn’t the point. The premise of this election was that Murphy is unpopular and Republicans have a chance to make gains.

In his message, Hugin gamely maintained that Republicans are “right on the issues.”

That’s going to be hard for many people – even Republicans – to swallow.

You can expect the MAGA-wing of the state Republican Party to start calling for Hugin’s resignation. Probably happening already.





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2 responses to “Election 2023 Post-Mortem”

  1. Gopal was one of the architects of the disgusting pornographic curriculum in the New Jersey public grade schools. You can’t even read from the pages of these books without being told to STOP at a BOE meeting! Parents’ Rights are NOT a losing issue if handled correctly, which the Republican campaign totally mishandled in that race! The Republican candidate let himself be pegged as an extremist on abortion, when the Gopal-Democrat position is truly extreme! TONS of money was spent on negative-distorting ads in that race by the Gopal campaign! How did the gushing Murphy feel about his candidate whom he was celebrating, was only 1 of 2 Democrats who voted down his much beloved Windmill project? Another blown opportunity by Republicans who once again let the opposition wrongly define them!

  2. Sorry all you Republicans. You made the wrong campaign arguments. Republicans should have been pounding on massive property tax relief ONLY!!!!! That has been the 800 lb. gorilla in the room for 40 years. Yet, Republicans got sidetracked with parental rights issues and abortion issues. Stupid is, as stupid does.

    Republicans needed to come out swinging as to why the Democrats were giving everyone a $6500/yr. property tax relief, instead of $10,000/ yrs. property tax relief as originally proposed until Gov. Phil KNUCKLEHEAD Murphy opposed this amount because he couldn’t justify taking the money earmarked for it–$2BILLION/YEAR away from illegal alien support in the budget. And, why was this relief only going to occur in 2026, three years down the road, after the 2023 election and after Gov. Murphy is out of office????

    According to NJ economists, by 2026 there wouldn’t be enough in the budget to cover the $2 BILLION PER YEAR in Property Tax Relief (or $1.3 BILLION for $6500/yr Property Tax Relief). By the time Property Tax Relief was going to come up, the NJ Gov’t (read: Democrat-Socialist controlled) would say there’s no money in the budget for this.

    This is what the Republicans should have been campaigning about for the entire 2023 campaign, with parental rights and school choice a distant second campaign point.

    Republicans botched it in NJ this time around. And, because of it, more and more New Jerseyans (read: Republicans who have most of the assets) will be leaving NJ in a mass exodus for tax-free states and signficantly lower property taxed states. I for one have had enough of New Jersey after 60 years. My house is on the market and several offers have been made. I’m mulling the best, and will be out of New Jersey in under 60 days to the house we just bought.

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