By Tommy DeSeno
Election night we listened to pundit after pundit (some admitting they know little about the 11th District) proclaim Vin Gopal’s victory over Senator Jen Beck was an “upset.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Every indicia of prognostication said Vin Gopal was the favorite, and it starts with the previous census.
I’ve lamented for some time that voting in “districted elections” is like not voting at all. After each census, 10 political big shots, 5 from each party, meet in a hotel room and draw crazy lines that allow them to divvy up the state between the two parties. Democrats having an advantage in this state, their “map” wins, by an 11th man tiebreaker. This is followed by us sheep doing our civic duty and voting even though the pols already stacked the demographic deck. The winning party acts like it was political prowess that won them the election, when in fact the day was won in the hotel room where the map is drawn every 10 years. This system is an inhibitor of democracy.
Before the current lines of the 11th district were redrawn, recall what every election night brought: Numbers would come in from Neptune, Asbury Park and Long Branch showing giant Democrat margins. Then Wall Township’s numbers would come in, and wipe out that margin of victory for the Democrats. The rest of the towns combined would offer the Republican a victory. This victory was reflective of the county in general and the natural state of the demography. With very limited exception, we have have had Republican representation on the county level for decades.
For many years in South Jersey, also known as the People’s Republic of George Norcross, whose capital is Camden County, they have had their eyes on taking over the entire shore including what is now the 11th District.
Recall the legendary fights between Norcross and then Senator John Bennett, which actually devolved into a physical altercation. Norcross wanted our area so badly he was behind a huge campaign against Bennett. He teamed up with then Asbury Park Press editor Skip Hidlay, who ran 19 negative front page stories about a billing error Bennett once made (and corrected), making it seem like he had done something wrong. We had seen this act before, when Norcross got his then political neophyte friend Steve Sweeney elected, with Skip Hidlay attacking Sweeney’s opponent from his then publisher’s perch with South Jersey’s Courier Post. All the same vendors who made attack ads against Sweeney’s opponent made them against Bennett. Bennett lost to Ellen Karcher, but that victory was short lived and the Republicans, Jen Beck, took the seat right back.
Then recall the race between then Republican assemblymen Sean Kean and Steve Corodemus vs Democrats Matt Doherty and John Riley. HUGE amounts of money came in from Camden county for the Democrats, but Kean and Corodemus squeaked by. Kean later became Senator. But stay tuned, because George Norcross hates losing and never gives up.
Then came the 2011 redistricting following the 2010 census. Alan Rosenthal, the 11th man in the redistricting back room, approved the “Democrat Map.” Rosenthal said that map would cause the “least amount of disruption.” Really? Take a look at what the Democrat map did and how disruptive it was:
- It took Wall Township and its huge Republican margin of victory out of the district.
- It removed Republican Senator Sean Kean and Assemblyman Dave Rible and put them in the 30th district, wiping away the incumbents.
This shift first led to Democrats Joanne Downey and Eric Houghtaling taking the Assembly seats from Republicans Mary Pat Angelini and Carolyn Casagrande. As of Tuesday, thanks also in no small part to what will be shown to be a HUGE amount of money coming from Camden County to help Gopal, the Democrat has unseated Republican Senator Jen Beck.
So what’s this talk about an upset? This was Camden County’s dream and work more than a decade in the making. Add to that the district is now registered more heavily with Democrats than Republicans, the money advantage and Gopal running with incumbent Assembly candidates, it’s clear Jen Beck was the underdog. This was NO upset. It was expected.
I’ll take nothing away from Vin Gopal’s efforts. As Art Gallagher has already pointed out, his campaign was all hustle and added to his great advantage. Let’s hope he makes for a good Senator and ignores our Camden County overlords. Let’s support him until he gives us a reason not to do so.
As for Beck, she tried to blow with the political winds and become more of a liberal once the district changed. Know this: Given the choice between a liberal Democrat and a liberal Republican, liberals will still vote Democrat. Republicans just won’t vote. No one respects a left-leaning Republican.
As for the Republican Party, two things:
-Discourage left leaning Republicans;
-After the 2020 census, pick the right guy as the tie-breaking vote on the redistricting committee or suffer another decade in the shadows.