You have to wonder why so many people who are registered in a party don’t vote in primaries.
Why bother to register as a Democrat or a Republican if you’re not going to help pick the candidates of your party?
I know, this is not exactly a new observation, but it remains a pertinent one.
For months now, we have heard – and seen – Republicans and conservatives lambaste Phil Murphy for “closing down” the state. He’s been called a tyrant, a king and a dictator just to start.
With that backdrop, you might expect that Republicans would show up in fairly significant numbers to pick the candidate to challenge Murphy this fall.
Not even close.
There are about 1.46 million registered Republicans in New Jersey and less than 320,000 bothered to vote. So more than 1 million didn’t.
Are they just apathetic, or are there other reasons?
A poll this week revealed that only one in five people were aware Tuesday’s primary was taking place.
It is true that newspapers – long the traditional source for local political news – hardly cover political campaigns any more. But that doesn’t explain it all.
Registered voters do get sample ballots, after all.
When you look at the Democratic side of the house, one district stands out – LD-37.
There are about 77,000 registered Democrats here and they were “treated” to a seemingly high-profile contest between Assembly members Gordon Johnson and Valerie Huttle to replace Loretta Weinberg in the state Senate.
Johnson ended up winning, but what seems more jarring is that fewer than 11,000 people voted. That’s fewer than 11,000 out of 77,000.
I know many people do not follow state government, especially the Legislature. But you would think people who register as Democrats would have a passing interest in the LD-37 race.
Not many did.
And that is why the “establishment” wins. Johnson was endorsed by party leaders.
We also saw a great – and novel – example of that in Morris County where Republicans created a “line” for the first time.
The two Assembly candidates who got it were incumbent Jay Webber and newcomer Christian Barranco. Party leaders in Morris bypassed fellow incumbent BettyLou DeCroce, who narrowly lost to Barranco for the second Assembly nod; Webber won easily.
It is interesting that DeCroce did well in Essex and Passaic counties, where she had party support, but doesn’t live.
She lost the race, because she lost in Morris, where she does live and where she has been politically active for years.
Such is the power of the establishment.
This is not happening in a vacuum. A number of left-wing groups have filed a federal suit seeking to eliminate the ability of county organizations to create a county “line,” which is to give favored candidates the best ballot position.
We’ll see how that turns out.
But there is something else that can dilute the power of party bosses – more party registrants voting in primaries.
That really shouldn’t be that hard.