Not So Fast, Governor Murphy

Bramnick today in Westfield.

Elections may “end” when the polls close, but the reverberations continue for awhile – sometimes even to the next election. And such it is with the just-concluded “Murphy midterms.”

The governor may come to hate that label, given the fact things didn’t go as well for him as planned. Sure, Democrats may lose merely one seat in the Senate and two in the Assembly, but it was the governor himself who raised expectations. He spent the better part of four days – including Election Day – touring the state and hyping Democratic candidates running in traditional Republican districts.

His message, which was repeated by local Dems, was that the party was ready to break down the doors and move into GOP territory.

Not so fast. Republicans held the key battleground districts in suburbia – 21 and 25. Yes, the races were closer than they were a decade ago, but by 11 p.m, Tuesday, it was the Republicans who were smiling. And no matter how you spin it, this was the proverbial kick in the gut for the governor.

Here are some takeaways from each district.

In 21, where Jon Bramnick was being challenged in a district that has a wee bit more Democrats than Republicans, attention was also drawn to a pair of independents, Martin Marks and  Harris Pappas, running as conservatives. Some reasoned that Marks and Pappas would draw votes from the GOP and give the race to the Democrats.

That didn’t happen. In fact, the conservatives were a non-factor, only getting a bit more than 1,000 votes each. This could have been a lot of their own doing, as it was reported just before Election Day that the right-wing duo would have preferred liberal Democrats in Trenton to a moderate Republican like Bramnick. This sure sounds like a kooky position for genuine conservatives and it looks like voters agreed.

Over in mostly-Morris County District 25, Democrats had a great issue. Anthony M. Bucco was seeking reelection to the Assembly but he had no plans to actually serve in the Assembly. He has replaced his late father in the Senate, but remained on the Assembly ballot.

This issue surfaced during a debate, but it’s a mystery to me why Democrats Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger didn’t try to capitalize on it further with a last-minute mailer or TV ad. A man seeking an office he has no intention of holding would seem to be great campaign fodder.

Speaking of Morris County, Republicans are feeling quite giddy after a series of victories.

Laura Ali, the vice chair of the county Republican Committee, credited a “new and unique” campaign strategy and the “grit” of the county’s GOP family. Another Republican said the election was a sign that the GOP is not simply going to let Democrats take over the county.

Let’s break this down.

Besides wins in the aforementioned Legislative districts, plus District 26, and all countywide offices – freeholder, sheriff and surrogate – Morris Republicans secured a major triumph in Parsippany, the county’s largest town.

This was significant. Just two years ago,voters there elected a Democratic mayor and two council members. And all they needed to do on Tuesday was win one of three open council seats to grab control.

It didn’t happen.

Republicans also saw Peter Mancuso, a veteran public servant and community volunteer, apparently win reelection to his seat on the Morris Township Committee. He is the only Republican remaining in what used to be a solid GOP town. We say “apparently,” because the race is close – less than 50 votes separate two candidates – and vote-by-mail ballots are still being tabulated.

But like Parsippany, GOP success in Morris Township is a change from the recent past.

Still, all is not “right” with Morris Republicans. By that, we mean things aren’t the same as they were a decade or so ago. Democrats can point to continued electoral success in Morris Plains, Madison and both Chathams – the township and borough. Democrats also elected a mayor in Boonton and defeated Republican Alison Deeb, a veteran council member in Morristown.

And then, there are races that are still outstanding.

In Dover, Democrat Carolyn Blackman leads incumbent Mayor James Dodd by 19 votes, Dodd ran as an independent, but says he’s a Democrat. This may not end for awhile. Not only are there VBM’s ballots to count, you can expect some ballots to be challenged.

We also have confusion in Mendham Township where four candidates are within 28 votes of each other.

One Republican leads a Democrat by one vote.

Clearly, the VMB’s will come into play here as well. And there should be no definitive word on them until next week.

And in a final note, one recalls back in June of 2018 when Ronald DeFilippis was elected chair of the county Republican Committee. In the glow of victory, he remarked that one thing he wanted to do was to oust Councilman Dan Kline, the only Democrat on the governing body in Roxbury, the new chairman’s home town. Even some Republicans at the time thought this was an awfully petty goal.

Lo and behold, Kline was indeed denied reelection on Tuesday. It’s probably debatable if this had anything to do with DeFilippis, or if it was just the natural order of things.

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