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Democrats Stand Fast in Senate, Lose Two Seats in Lower Chamber

Concerns about the length of Christie's coattails prove unfounded, but a number of races qualify as 'nail-biters' and will probably kick off recounts

Click on a district to see the latest results for NJ legislative contests. Democratic districts are in blue, Republicans are in red and those with split representation are in pink. The darker the color, the larger the margin of victory. All results are in real time and all are unofficial until certified by state election officials later this month.

Source for all data: NJ County Clerks. NJ Spotlight graphics in conjunction with NJ News Commons and Montclair State University School of Communication and Media

The Christie tidal wave, as one Democratic leader called it, did not wash away the Democrats’ legislative majorities.

As of midnight, it appeared the party lost only two seats in the Assembly -- one in the 1st district in South Jersey and the other in the 38th in the North -- and none in the Senate. That’s a far cry from the 14-seat gain the Republicans made in 1985, when Gov. Thomas H. Kean won re-election in what remains the largest landslide in modern state history.

Last night’s results still leave the Democrats with majorities of 24-16 in the Senate and 46-34 in the Assembly. But as with the past four years, that does not mean gridlock, since this same Democratic majority passed much of Gov. Chris Christie’s political program, such as pension and health benefit reforms. But despite Christie’s commanding win, the Democrats also pushed through this year’s ballot measure, a hike of the minimum wage.

"This was certainly a tremendous personal victory for Chris Christie, but it didn't translate into a victory for the Republican Party," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University and a professor there.

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney.
Credit: philly.com
State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney.

Aside from the overwhelming support for the governor, New Jerseyans "voted for Democrats across the state," Dworkin said. "They held their state Senate seats, and in the Assembly, one lost because of self-inflicted political baggage, and another race is so close that it will certainly go to a recount."

In the 1st Legislative District, Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi defeated Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Albano by 1,335 votes. Albano created an ethics problem for himself with a complaint against a state trooper, who had ticketed him for speeding.

In the 38th, Democratic Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, one of two openly gay legislators, appeared to have lost by only 171 votes to Rochelle Park Committeeman Joseph Scarpa, a Republican.

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3rd), who won his own re-election fight, said voters didn't want a "rubber-stamp Legislature” and so chose Democratic lawmakers.

"Understand, we’re going to fight, you know what I mean, unlike the Republicans in the Legislature who just nod and say 'yes' and go forward; understand that we never did that," Sweeney said. "We’re not afraid to step up and speak our minds and disagree. It’s OK -- that makes better policy."

Sweeney said voters don’t want the Legislature to support Christie's positions, cutting funds to women's health and in opposition to a millionaire's tax, adding: "They do not want to grant the governor a Supreme Court that was going to be molded in his image."

Sweeney expressed scorn for Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean's pre-election predictions that the Republicans would gain seats.

"All I know is Tom Kean said, ‘I got five,’" Sweeney said, referring to Kean's prediction of gaining enough seats to gain the majority. He said Kean has to explain to the other Republican senators why "he decided to spend a million dollars against me that probably would have been better spent in other places. I'm very glad he spent the million down by me." Sweeney ended up winning with 55 percent of the vote.

Despite the expected Christie juggernaut, pundits had not expected the Democrats to lose many seats. All across the state, legislative Democrats in hotly contested districts have been talking about their own bipartisan credentials, how they worked with Christie to get things done, Dworkin said. He had predicted that the popular bipartisanship them would help the Democratic majorities maintain control.

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