Democrat Joe Biden will almost certainly win New Jersey’s 14th ballot on Tuesday, but there are many other things worth considering on election day in Garden State.
From hotly contested Congressional races to local elections in suburban towns that were once firmly Republican to the way this year’s elections are conducted, the outcome could have a deeper impact on New Jersey’s political future than regular elections.
Here are five developments and results:
This is the most obvious and important thing to watch.
Democrats hold a 10-2 majority in the New Jersey House delegation. That’s from 11-1 according to US Rep. Jeff Van Drew changed the parties from Democrat to Republican. Four years ago, the delegation was shared with 6-6.
There are several reasons for the shift, including demographic change. The main reason, however, is the voter backlash against President Donald Trump.
The races in two congressional districts – the second in South Jersey and the seventh in Central Jersey – remain extremely competitive.
In the 2nd district, the Democrat Amy Kennedy challenges the incumbent Van Drew. Kennedy surpasses Van Drew, but Van Drew tapped a controversial Democratic agent, Craig Callaway, to aid his campaign through his infamous mail-in-election operation.
The district, which is democratic on paper, voted for Trump in 2016 and has more rural white voters than districts further north. Democratic and Republican super PACs also spend a lot of money in the district.
Kennedy halted all of her personal events Monday after interacting with someone who has since tested positive for the coronavirus during an event on Saturday. She tested negative.
POLITICO rates the district as a “mistake”.
The 7th district, where incumbent Democrats Tom Malinowski faces Republican Tom Kean Jr., the Senate minority leader, who is demographically very different from the 2nd. Located in the New York City commuter belt, it is one of the richest and most educated congressional districts in the country. It is also home to Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club.
The district was firmly Republican until Malinowski defeated Republican Leonard Lance in 2018 when voters pissed Trump off. Now, Kean Jr. – the son of formerly famed Republican Governor Tom Kean – is trying to lure those moderate voters back.
POLITICO rates the race as “slim democratic”.
The once competitive district that appears to have fallen is South Jersey’s 3rd District, where newly minted Democratic MP Andy Kim, who narrowly defeated Republican MP Tom MacArthur, a Trump loyalist, in 2018, is a towering head start in rallying Donated, and Republican External groups have spent little to bolster GOP challenger David Richter.
Due to the pandemic, heads of state have redesigned the New Jersey primaries and general elections this year so that they are largely voted by mail.
Republicans are not happy about this and have warned that the process could wreak havoc. Some have also sent mixed messages telling people that Governor Phil Murphy canceled the personal vote when in fact he did not. Voters can cast preliminary ballot papers at polling stations between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Many voters – perhaps disproportionately Republican – are likely to do so, as Trump sewed distrust of postal ballot papers.
A major potential problem is that some races are unlikely to be played on Tuesday night as tentative ballots cannot be counted for at least a week after the election. Because of this, some Republican campaigns do not believe they will concede or declare victory on election night.
Ballot counting in some counties took weeks during the July primaries. But this time, most of the district’s electoral boards – with the permission of the legislature – began counting the ballot papers 10 days ago.
If election day gets chaotic – with long lines to vote to cast preliminary ballots, and results delayed by days or even weeks – the mail-in voting experiment in New Jersey may not continue. But if things go relatively smoothly, don’t be surprised if Democrats try to expand mail-in voting – and possibly face-to-face voting on machines – when lawmakers agree to invest the roughly $ 25 million books required to purchase the required electronic survey books.
The damage Trump has done to the Republicans in New Jersey isn’t limited to just congressional districts. Democrats in suburban, traditionally solid GOP areas faced better fortunes in the Trump era.
Take Mount Laurel in Burlington County, where long-running Republicans last year wanted to urge voters to change the community’s election from partisan to non-partisan – a move widely seen as an attempt to break away from Trump’s brand of republicanism to solve. Legislators quickly passed a bill to block the move. Now the Democrats are hoping to wrest control of the council.
Morris County was once practically synonymous with the Republican Party. Democrats haven’t won a vacant seat there in decades, but this year even Republicans acknowledge that Democrats stand a chance of getting the only vacant seat on the ballot.
The 25th Legislative District, made up primarily of towns in Morris County, is holding special elections for a Senate seat and a seat in the Assembly, now held by Republican State Senator Anthony Bucco and Republican Congregation member Aura Dunn.
The once solid GOP district has become competitive, and while Republicans managed to fend off a Democratic challenge for their two seats in the Assembly in 2019, Democrats and Republicans recognize that 2020 – with a turnout in the presidential election – will be for the GOP will be more of a challenge.
A constitutional amendment to allow the sale and use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over is on the ballot, and few wonder if it will be passed. In several recent surveys, more than 60 percent of respondents were interviewed. While supporters poured about $ 2 million into an advertising campaign in favor of legalization, opponents spent almost nothing to fight back.
Although the electoral issue would write legalization into the state constitution, lawmakers would still have to draft laws to regulate it and remove anti-marijuana laws from the books. While the state constitution takes precedence over state law, things could still get chaotic if anti-marijuana laws stay on the books and some law enforcement agencies decide to keep arresting people.
Despite the polls in support of legalization, many lawmakers have hesitated to endorse it. That’s why it’s first on the ballot. Efforts to pass legalization into law have repeatedly failed. Democrats have only lost one vote recently.
If voters make it clear they want legalization, could it end up breaking opposition from skeptical lawmakers? Some believe a landslide in favor of legalization would put pressure on lawmakers to work faster.
What’s less certain is the result of an electoral poll that would delay redistribution of state legislation until 2022 and keep the current legislative counties until the 2023 election – when the U.S. Census Bureau delivers data to New Jersey after February 15.
The only public poll on the issue found that there was a plurality, but not a majority, in favor of delaying redistribution – 46 percent are in favor, 32 percent are against, and 22 percent are undecided. Republicans and progressive groups have spoken out against the question, although little has been spent promoting it or against it.
What all of this means for 2021
Murphy, who is eligible for re-election next year along with the entire 120-member legislature, has repeatedly stated that he wants to remain governor even if Joe Biden wins the presidency and offers him a cabinet post.
If Biden wins, speculation about Murphy’s future will increase. Would Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver – who would become governor if Murphy leaves – the favorite for next year’s Democratic nomination? If Oliver wants to, given today’s political dynamism in the Democratic Party, it would be a challenge for other Democrats to stand up against the state’s first black female governor.
If Biden wins and Murphy stays in New Jersey, there are concerns among some Democrats that they might see a repeat of 2009 when Republican Chris Christie replaced Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine during a recession a year after Barack Obama’s presidency.
The New Jersey Democrats were energized against Trump. Could that excitement fade with a Democrat in the White House? And who knows if we’ll be out of the pandemic-induced recession by then?
The result of the presidential race also has an impact on the competition to nominate Republicans for governor.
If Trump wins the election and New Jersey Republicans do relatively well, the decision of GOP chairman Doug Steinhardt – a likely 2021 gubernatorial candidate – to reconcile the state party with Trump will be at least partially confirmed. If Trump loses and it is a disaster for New Jersey Republicans, Steinhardt will own it.
While it’s not hard to see the GOP base staying loyal to Trump, it could be challenging for Steinhardt to campaign for his party’s nomination if its power has been severely eroded under his leadership.