By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
As expected, Chris Christie scored a landslide victory and looked ahead to November. Democrat Barbara Buono also won her primary decisively.
State and local races turned up no surprises in this primary election. Said Patrick Murray, Director of Monmouth University Polling Institute. “We have 160 potential legislative primaries, and 140 of them didn’t even have any challengers in them. So we were down to 20 … In every 20 of those cases, the party choice won by a huge margin.”
The tallies tell the story. Incumbents holding seats in the state legislature easily beat their challengers. Even in districts where pundits expected competitive races, like the 34th. Incumbent Sen. Nia Gill easily defeated opponent Mark Alexander. It was the same story in the 20th district where Sen. Lesniak had a decisive win. So did Republican incumbent Sen. Joe Kyrillos who represents the 13th district. Murray believes two factors played a role in helping incumbents win — low voter turnout and party support.
But it is possible to win off the line. Sen. Nia Gill did it herself back in 2003, and another incumbent followed suit last night, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford.
With the primaries decided, the focus now turns to the November election. Murray believes many incumbents will again prevail, which would help Democrats keep the majority in the State House. But one possible game changer could be the special election. Gov. Christie has called to fill the seat of the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. Murray believes this a calculated move for Christie as he mulls a presidential run in 2016.
“Hold the election a few weeks before your election, bring a lot Democrats out who are really excited because they’ll able to vote for a Democrat senator who will probably win, and then they’ll stay home cause they’ve done their job for the fall, and you’ll get your Republican vote out,” explained Murray. ‘The added benefit of that for folks down the line is that Democrats aren’t going to come out in the legislative races either, and so a couple of these races may be more competitive than we thought they were going to be.”
And with Democrats focused on the October special election, that could leave Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Sen. Barbara Buono, virtually alone to fight an uphill battle to try to unseat Gov. Christie.