NJ VOTES NOV 7! Vote-by-Mail starts soon and Early Voting begins Oct 28!
In less than two months, on November 7, New Jersey voters will choose all 120 members of our State Senate and General Assembly. Democrats are keen to preserve their majorities in both houses.
Since gerrymandering helps the main parties hoard power at the expense of independent voters, only a few districts should be competitive this year including the shore-based 11th district in Monmouth Co. and district 4 in the Philly burbs.
If past in prologue, voter turnout should be low according to Micah Rasmussen who leads the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
“In 2019, the last time the state Legislature was at the top of the ticket, turnout was 27%, or 1.6M votes,” Mr. Rasmussen told InsiderNJ. “The time before that, in 2015, turnout was an abysmal 22%, or 1.1M votes. Going back one more cycle to 2011, turnout was 27% or 1.4M votes.”
Any projections for this November’s turnout?
“My best guess is we’ll see just over 1.5 million statewide votes, or about a quarter of the statewide electorate,” Mr. Rasmussen added.
Nothing to offer
If you’re a Republican voter worried about your New Jersey property taxes, the NJ GOP has absolutely nothing for you whatsoever. From conservative stalwarts like Senator Mike Testa to moderates like Senator Holly Schepisi, it’s all about the culture wars like banning (or restricting) books they don’t like, including pretty much anything that depicts LGBT people. They’re also fear-mongering about windmills of all things. In fact, the NJ GOP is in so desperate to preserve our dependence on fossil fuels, they’re actually pretending to care about whales!
Let me share an anecdote about why the GOP’s sudden concern for whales is bonkers: my late father was super conservative. He and Mike Testa woulda been besties. But despite his love of Reagan and Trump and guns, my dad was proud of my (mostly) liberal activism to legalize gay marriage and weed. We were close and Dad never missed an opportunity to make a “save the whales” joke to tease me.
“Did you have a good day saving the whales, son?”
“Now that gay marriage is legal, will you be saving the whales full time?”
Basically saving the whales was a derisive conservative catch-all for anything they might nowadays describe as “woke.” And now we’re supposed to pretend the NJGOP is devoted to saving the whales? The irony!
They didn’t care about whales (or whale habitat) until an alarming series of unexplained whale deaths became a rallying cry against windmill expansion by Ørsted, a Danish-owned energy company.
Ørsted got a massive tax deal earlier this year at the expense of ratepayers (largely along party lines) so this massive multinational company has plenty to answer for.
But we’re not saving the whales from Ørsted.
We’re saving the whales from conservative policies that are destroying the planet, something Democratic candidates would be wise to remind their voters.
If only they find their voice.
“Turning out your base is what matters in low turnout elections,” Mr. Rasmussen said. “And for better or worse, Republicans are doing that with their steady drumbeat on culture war issues. I was at a council meeting in my town the other night and the local pols were complaining about a photo of windmills on our municipal website. From top to bottom, conservatives are on message.”
So what about the Democratic side?
“For their part, Democrats have been like deer caught in the headlights, and I’m not sure that’s an effective way to fire up their base,” Mr. Rasmussen added.
It’s not. And for what it’s worth, Democrats aren’t discussing property taxes either.
CJ Griffin is NJ’s premier government transparency watchdog.
“I think Democratic voters are very disenchanted because they’re looking for a state party that really distinguishes itself from what’s going on with the GOP at the federal level,” Ms. Griffin told InsiderNJ.
Things like abortion, police transparency, and standing for trans kids.
“But we’re just not seeing that– there’s hardly any talk of legitimate campaign issues. And rather than distinguish themselves, we’ve instead seen ELEC (NJ’s election watchdog) be gutted, bills introduced to blatantly gut OPRA, no movement on key police reform bills, and the Democratic machines continually elevating white male candidates.”
And then, when spooked by polls suggesting their message isn’t resonating, Democrats had the option to brandish and defend their own values on abortion rights et al.
NJ Democratic leaders really wanted an abortion referendum on that ballot this November to boost their chances. The referendum card is something Democrats have played with popular issues (minimum wage, weed) in prior campaigns to compensate for the fact that, like their GOP counterparts, Trenton Democrats don’t offer much to voters.
But according to Jackie Cornell, director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ, abortion will be on voters’ minds even without an actual referendum.
“Abortion access is on the ballot this year in New Jersey,” Ms. Cornell told InsiderNJ. “The 97 candidates Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey endorsed last week have the opportunity to run on their strong records and commitments to protect New Jersey from draconian abortion bans and restrictions, like the ones that exist today in 22 other states across the country.”
Senator Holly Schepisi, a Bergen County Republican, recently argued that abortion is a settled matter in New Jersey and that Democrats are being disingenuous to mention it on the campaign train. Is it more disingenuous than pretending to save the whales when you….don’t?
We think not.
So here’s hoping NJ Democrats won’t be taking campaign advice from Sen. Schepisi.
Because even though the NJ Democrats have clearly failed to inspire, if they lose control of either house in Trenton, the nonstop MAGA madness would include endless hearings to restrict abortion access and gay rights.
As a progressive voter, I see how an abortion referendum on the ticket might be good politics. But I also know what it’s like to be a young closeted gay kid in a conservative town. So what happens to a kid like that (the same kid NJ Republicans want to force out of the closet) whose entire school board is taken over by anti-gay culture warriors, propelled by an abortion referendum on the same ballot?
Alas the plight of LGBT youth in conservative towns was’t a factor for Democratic leaders looking to outsource the heavy lifting to Planned Parenthood.
Maybe it should have been.
“Ballot initiatives are motivating to voters on both sides of an issue,” Ms. Cornell added. “For example, in California last November, pro-reproductive freedom candidates saw losses at the district level in the same election that saw statewide voters amend the state’s constitution to protect abortion rights.”
In conclusion, Democrats in NJ are being outworked and out-hustled by an inspired NJGOP that’s relentlessly on message. Republicans need all that (and some luck) if they hope to flip the NJ Senate or Assembly.
NJ Democrats have 49 days to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster based in Cherry Hill. NJ. His property taxes remain stubbornly high.