4 Reasons To Be Frustrated By Democracy In New Jersey

Matt Katz | June 9, 2014 | Katz on Christie

1) None Of The Above did well in last week’s election.

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate — one of only three statewide elected positions in New Jersey — last ran for public office 36 years ago. He hadn’t even lived in the state until he moved back in a few months ago. And yet Jeff Bell beat out three challengers in a low-turnout (7.6 percent) primary last week. In Bergen County, considered a bellwether for the state, 43 percent of Republican voters just didn’t vote for the top-of-the-ticket US Senate race. “None Of The Above” is technically Bergen County’s choice for Republican nominee for Senate.

2) Experienced Republicans don’t even offer themselves up as statewide candidates.  

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has a ton of money and name recognition, so some experienced state legislators may have stayed out of this year’s race for those reasons. But some Republicans privately blame Gov. Christie for the lack of established candidates in recent races. They say he has done little to build the party in the state, barely campaigning for Republican state legislators and generally forbidding the only other statewide elected Republican, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, from even talking to the press. Christie didn’t release a statement or a tweet congratulating Jeff Bell after he won last week, and the Star-Ledger says Bell didn’t even get a congratulatory phone call from the governor. As a Republican in New Jersey, unless you have Christie fully backing and fundraising for your candidacy, it’s going to be tough to win a statewide race. 

3) There are elections ALL THE TIME.

There have literally been elections most months in the last year. Working backward: There are mayoral run-off elections Tuesday in towns like Bayonne and Trenton. The senate and congressional primaries were last week. Mayoral races in Newark and elsewhere were in May. School board elections were in April. Last year, there were special senate elections in August and October, then a gubernatorial election in November. The New Jersey comptroller recently came out with a report about Fire District elections — they have their elections in yet another month, February. The turnout for one fire district in Brick Township in 2012? 0.6 percent.

4) Campaign finance loopholes.

Congressman Rob Andrews, who was once a rising star in New Jersey’s Democratic Party, resigned in February. So there was a special election — a primary and a general — to fill out his term. But his seat was also up for a new term that starts in January 2015. So State Sen. Donald Norcross, brother of South Jersey power broker George Norcross, ran against two other Democrats for both the special election and the regular election. On the same ballot. Voters might have been confused, but it created an opportunity for donors, like Donald’s wealthy brother, George, to give money to him twice: Instead of the normal maximum of $5,200, donors can give up to $10,400 because there are technically two races going on. And Political Action Committees can give $20,000 per candidate, instead of $10,000. Norcross won the primary and is a lock in the general.