Bloomberg News

Christie Republicans Lose One Seat in New Jersey Legislature

November 15, 2011

(Updates with vote count beginning in first paragraph.)

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Republicans lost one seat in the state Legislature even after Governor Chris Christie campaigned for candidates and drew out-of-state donations.

Democrats maintained their 24-16 control over the Senate and added one seat in the Assembly, giving them a 48-32 edge, according to the Associated Press and Star-Ledger. Votes for all 120 seats in the Legislature were cast yesterday.

In two Senate races where Christie campaigned and raised money, Republicans failed to unseat incumbent Democrats in the district that includes Atlantic City and in the election to represent central Bergen County.

“I have a feeling there’s not much of a party in Drumthwacket tonight,” said Democrat Robert Gordon, who held onto his Senate seat in the Bergen County race, referring to the governor’s mansion in Princeton.

Christie said Oct. 31 that he would declare victory even if Republicans failed to pick up any new seats, because every New Jersey governor except one in the last 48 years lost spots in the Legislature midway through their term.

During town-hall meetings in the first few months of this year, Christie urged voters to send him a Republican majority to speed up passage of his agenda. His message changed after April, when a panel redrawing New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts approved an electoral map that favored Democrats.

‘Make History’

The new legislative map shifted Republican Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco, of Franklin Township, into a more Democratic- leaning district, which he lost. A Democrat won DiCicco’s seat yesterday.

The legislative boundaries are redrawn every 10 years, after the census, to reflect population shifts. After the last redrawing in 2001, Democrats nabbed both houses in New Jersey. That map also helped Democratic Governor James McGreevey win seats in his midterm two years later, Christie said.

“I do believe we’re going to make history,” Christie, 49, told reporters on Oct. 31. “If we’re not one of those administrations who loses seats even with this awful map that was foisted upon us, we’ve made history.”

Each legislative district in New Jersey elects two Assembly members and one senator. Assembly members serve two-year terms while senators serve four-year terms except for the first term of a new decade, which is two years.

Policy Compromises

Democratic control has forced Christie, New Jersey’s first Republican elected governor in 12 years, to compromise on a local property-tax cap and an overhaul of public-employee pensions and benefits. He was unable to enact some education proposals, including basing teacher pay on student performance.

The New Jersey Education Association, the largest state teachers union, doubled contributions to legislative candidates and committees in the quarter ended Sept. 30. It withheld donations to Democrats who supported a bill to raise worker costs for health care and benefits, signed by Christie in June.

Christie that month also signed a $29.7 billion budget for fiscal 2012 after cutting almost $1 billion added by Democrats for schools, police and tax credits for the working poor. Democrats failed to garner enough votes to reverse his cuts.

Democrats need a two-thirds majority, or 27 members in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly, to override Christie vetoes, and three-fifths to send proposals directly to voters.

Christie, who faces re-election in 2013, made a September fundraising swing through western states that generated more than $620,000 from non-New Jersey sources, out of almost $1.5 million raised by the state Republican Party last quarter, according to an election filing.

Republican Money

The New Jersey Republican State Committee this year collected $3.2 million through Sept. 30, while the Democratic State Committee raised $889,450, according to a summary of campaign-finance reports from the election commission. Democrats outpaced Republicans in individual fundraising, though, with $8.6 million of campaign cash as of Oct. 18 compared with $4.7 million for Republicans.

Christie on Oct. 4 put an end to speculation that he might enter the Republican field to challenge President Barack Obama, after party leaders and financial backers called on the governor to reconsider a year of denials that he would run. Christie’s approval rating among New Jersey voters climbed to a record 58 percent in an Oct. 12 Quinnipiac University poll.

“It really should have been a bigger night for them,” Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville, said as results trickled in. “Given the governor’s popularity and the money he put in, he should have done much better.”

South Jersey

Christie planned to campaign in New Hampshire today for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom he endorsed last month.

Support for Christie’s pension measure was a campaign issue in New Jersey’s Bergen County, as incumbent Gordon, a Democrat who opposed the bill, defeated Republican Freeholder Director John Driscoll. Senator Jim Whelan, a Democrat from Atlantic City who voted for the pension package, prevailed amid a challenge from Republican Assemblyman Vince Polistina.

The Whelan-Polistina race was the most expensive in the state, with $3.8 million raised and $3.2 million spent through Oct. 25, election records show.

Overall turnout was expected to be low because there was no statewide race, Christie and Dworkin had said. In the 2007 election, the last time the full Legislature faced re-election without a governor’s race, 32 percent of registered voters cast ballots, records show.

Voters in New Jersey also backed a non-binding ballot question on whether they support sports betting at racetracks and casinos. Federal law allows such gambling only in Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon. The sponsor of the question, state Senator Raymond Lesniak, has said it would bolster his legal fight to overturn the ban in New Jersey. Christie has said he supports the referendum.

--Editors: Stacie Servetah, Mark Schoifet

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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