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NJ Primary Takeaway

Well, not everything turned out as I expected, but I’ll fall back on the fact that I called the winner in every raced involving someone who will actually serve in Congress next year.  (How’s that for spin?)

Turnout was a little higher than I expected.  When all the votes are counted it looks like it might be about 11%.  Specifically, GOP turnout was about 40,000 voters greater than in a typical primary, driven by the novelty of an already-decided Presidential nomination.  But it was Democratic turnout in just two Congressional Districts that put the statewide turnout figure over the 10% mark.  Approximately 110,000 Democrats voted in those two districts alone.  That’s about 60-70,000 more than we would expect in a typical primary!

On the headline event of the night, I was right on the winner, Bill Pascrell, but no one – including the victor’s camp – ever dreamed of the numbers he would put up in Passaic County.  Steve Rothman’s negative campaign led to the expected low turnout in Bergen, but not in Passaic, where Pascrell’s ground game – aided by Bill Clinton’s endorsement – contributed to the stunner of the night.

In the 10th district, the race wasn’t as close as I thought it would be – not anywhere close to where I thought it would be. Ron Rice, Jr. intended to challenge the incumbent Congressman, Donald Payne, Sr. before he died, and so had been preparing for a battle.  The Essex County machine had a point to prove against this rabble rouser and turned out monster numbers in the Oranges and elsewhere. Moreover, they were able to produce the same margins in Union County.  Rice may be a tenacious campaigner in Newark, but he go his hat handed to him, barely edging out Nia Gill for a dismal second place finish, 40 percentage points behind the winner, Donald Payne, Jr.

I also, thought that the Monmouth County GOP organizational pick in CD6 would take the nomination over 2010 upstart, Anna Little.  While Little had the Middlesex line, there seemed to be less overall enthusiasm for her grass-roots candidacy this time around.  Moreover, I thought – foolish me – that the Monmouth GOP would make sure it did not suffer a repeat of their candidate’s loss two years ago.

I guess I gave them too much credit.  In 2010, only 14,000 Republicans showed up to vote in the CD6 primary.  In the newly expanded district, that number actually dropped to less than 11,000.  Monmouth party pick, Ernesto Cullari claimed only 2,400 votes in the Monmouth portion of the district! District-wide, he got his clock cleaned, losing the nomination by 40 points.  The Monmouth County GOP has a history of anemic GOTV operations and I know there was little real enthusiasm for Cullari.

But really?! Only 2,400 votes? In some cultures, the Monmouth GOP would be compelled to light itself on fire in the village square from the shame of it all.

Alright, that’s enough ragging.  So what’s the big takeaway for New Jersey from yesterday’s primary?

Nothing.

The few competitive races hinged on settling personal scores more than articulating differing visions of government or the future of the party.

With that behind us, it’s on to November.  And to save us all some time, I’ll just make most of my picks right now, thanks to the New Jersey redistricting commission:

President: Obama wins the state’s 14 electoral votes

US Senate: Too early to call

CD1: Andrews
CD2: LoBiondo
CD3: Too early too call
CD4: Smith
CD5: Garrett
CD6: Pallone
CD7: Lance
CD8: Sires
CD9: Pascrell
CD10: Payne
CD11: Frelinghuysen
CD12: Holt

LD4: Mosquera
LD16: Too early to call
LD26: DeCroce