Republican incumbents navigate ‘blue wave’ ahead of elections

Scenes of downtown New Providence look like they could be pulled straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s ranked the eighth best place to live in New Jersey. Property taxes are flat and schools are thriving, so why then is there a groundswell of opposition from Democratic challengers to longtime Republican leaders?

“People are emotional about things that happen in Washington and Trenton, and to be perfectly honest with you I don’t think that has anything to do with the local elections,” said New Providence Mayor Al Morgan.

Following a story about the so-called ‘blue wave’ sweeping through Union County with first-time political candidates, Democrats are reviving their local party committees, fueled by a divisive presidential election.

“I think you can’t go by the party affiliation. You have to go by the people, and we have good people on council,” said Morgan.

“I would say going door to door for the last four months that there is a factor. There are some people who are so mad at Gov. Christie and so mad at President Trump that they literally won’t speak to me. They literally said who did I vote for and kindly say, ‘I couldn’t vote for you,'” said Dr. Bob Robinson, New Providence council candidate.

The Trump/Christie factor is at play in the blue state, for better or for worse. In New Providence, Democratic voter turnout was up 500 percent during the primary, but Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s campaign says it is gaining some steam by focusing on Trump’s popular immigration platform among conservatives. So, in a predominantly blue state, how do you navigate running on a red ticket this election cycle?

“I don’t look at the Republican/Democrat factor. I’m a hometown boy. I’ve lived in this town 63 years. I went to school right here in this municipal building. I don’t bleed red or blue, I bleed green, gold and white,” said Morgan.

“Some people are upset with Chris Christie, some people are upset with Donald Trump. Some people are upset with Hilary Clinton. None of that has anything to do with the success of places like New Providence,'” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

Branmick says keeping Washington’s politics out of state and local races is no doubt tougher this year, adding that people looking at change for change’s sake should take in the big picture.

“The state of New Jersey has a Legislature which has been controlled by Democrats for 15 years. There’s 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans, but people are looking for change because maybe they don’t like Chris Christie. But they have to also focus on the fact that the Democrats have run the Legislature for 15 years,” said Bramnick.

So, to avoid a repeat of previous elections, leaders are calling on voters to cast their ballot in favor of a candidate, not against a party.