In seven weeks New Jersey voters will have the opportunity to elect an entirely new state legislature.
Patrick Murray’s Monmouth University/Neptune Nudniks poll conducted in August indicates that New Jersey voters disapprove of their legislature by a 48%-35% margin. Democrats disapprove by 45%-38%. Independents, the majority, disapprove by a whopping 50%-28%. Surprisingly, Republicans approve of the legislature by a 45%-41% margin. Public workers disapprove by 55%-26%.
Based solely on those poll results, one might expect that we’d be in the middle of a spirited campaign with Democrats and public workers rallying to throw the Republicans out of office. Obviously that is not the case. Democrats control the legislature that their base and Independents disapprove of strongly.
Due to Dr. Alan Rosenthal’s decision that New Jersey voters are better off being continuously represented by legislators they don’t know, there are only a handful of competitive legislative races. The Democrats will continue to control the legislature for the next two years. Probably the next ten years.
13th Legislative District
This district keeps the Bayshore towns of Aberdeen, Hazlet, Holmdel, Keansburg, Keyport, Middletown, and Union Beach from the old 13th, adds Atlantic Higlands, Highlands, Monmouth Beach, Rumson and Sea Bright from the old 11th and Fair Haven, Little Silver, Oceanport, Marlboro from the old 12th.
The Republican incumbents are Senator Joe Kyrillos and Assembly Members Amy Handlin and Declan O’Scanlon. O’Scanlon previously represented the old 12th.
On paper this should be a competitive district. Democrats actually have a voter registration edge. According to Labels and Lists Inc there are 34,193 registered Democrats, 33,758 registered Republicans and 74,492 unaffiliated (Independent) voters in the district.
Despite the slight registration edge for Democrats, the district generally votes Republican. John McCain won the district in 2008, Chris Christie beat Jon Corzine here by a wide margin, and Anna Little beat Frank Pallone here in 2010.
Of the 16 municipalities in the 13th, 9 of the are comfortably controlled by Republicans. 6 are competitive towns with a local governing body that shifts from R to D on occasion. Aberdeen is the only reliably Democratic town on the municpal level.
With 31% of the registered voters in the district, Middletown dominates. Even though their registration edge is less than 2000 voters, Republicans dominate Middletown. Middletown voters love their hometown office holders, Joe Kyrillos and Amy Handlin who they have elected time after time over the last two decades plus; Kyrillos served two terms in the Assembly from 1988 through 1991 and has been a Senator since 1992. Handlin was a Monmouth County Freeholder from 1990 through 2006 when she entered the Assembly.
Roughly 73% of the district is new for O’Scanlon. Yet, that 27% from his old district, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Oceanport and Marlboro knows O’Scanlon well. They elected him to two terms in the Assembly after he lost to Michael Panter by only 73 votes in 2005.
The Democrats are running two former Hazlet mayors and a former Middletown township committee member.
Christopher Cullen is the former Hazlet Mayor challenging Kyrillos for Senate. Cullen, who served one term on the Hazlet Township Committee, won the nomination for Senate as a write-in candidate in the primary after failing to submit his petitions after being tabbed at the nominating convention in the spring. He is the director of facilities maintenance and custodial services at MAST High School. He is a member of Operating Engineers Local 68 and was previously a member of the teamsters.
Hazlet’s Community Center is named for Cullen’s father, James J. Cullen, who served the community for many years as a Republican office holder.
Both Democratic Assembly candidates won their first municipal elections in the wake of Operation Bid Rig. Lavan was elected to the Hazlet Township Committee in 2005 and served through 2010 when he lost his reelection bid. Like Cullen, his union roots are deep. He has been a member of the International Longshoreman’s Association for 46 years. He is making his support of unions, and the Right to Work legislation that Handlin and O’Scanlon have sponsored, the center piece of his campaign.
Short, a former Republican and a West Point graduate was the first Democrat elected to the Middletown Township Committee in 2006 in the wake of Bid Rig. He was swept out of office with Jon Corzine in 2009 as Chris Christie and the GOP swept Middletownoverwhelmingly. Short was ambivalent about seeking a second term, but ultimately ignored MMM’s advise that he take the plaque.
Based on the early inactivity of the campaign, I was wondering if the feisty Constitution Party slate of Steve Boracchia for Senate, Bill Lawton and Frank Cottone might actually garner more votes than the Democrats in this race. However, a volunteer from the Democratic campaign reached out to me to optimistic declare that the Democrats will produce a shocking victory on election day. The volunteer said that Cullen, Lavan and Short are going in 20 different directions knocking on doors and that they are marshalling their scare resources for a last minute sprint into office.
While the 13th districts candidates don’t have the state Democratic support that the 11th district candidates have enjoyed….a paid staff and high profile fund raisers hosted by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Senate President Stephen Sweeney…the volunteer said that the campaign is expecting an influx of union money and that Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan is coming to the district next week to raise money for the slate.