Monday night at the Two Rivers Republican Club of Fair Haven Meet the Candidates night, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon and Assembly Candidate Edna Walsh got into it over which slate is better known.
While scolding the challengers for running against “the best, most conservative, delegation in the legislature,” and dismissing the Bayshore Tea Party backed candidates’ justification for running, i.e., that Joe Kyrillos, Amy Handlin and O’Scanlon don’t share the conservative values of the district the challengers say, O’Scanlon said, “Where have you been? I haven’t heard from you and no body has heard of you.”
Walsh retorted, “As I go door to door, no one has heard to you.” To which O’Scanlon scoffed.
Both O’Scanlon and Walsh are probably right. Unless something has happened that nobody has accounted for in the last two years, very few of the legislative candidates in the district, and throughout the state, incumbent or not, are very well known.
In March of 2011, days before the new legislative map was announced, I was disgusted that Dr. Alan Rosenthal of Rutgers, the deciding vote on the commission that was designating the gerrymandered map that in all likelihood would determine the partisan composition of the legislature for the next decade, had on his own created a criteria by which the map should be determined; continuity of representation.
A tongue in cheek post about who the Democrats could get to challenge Senator Joe Kyrillos when their endorsed candidate failed to submit his nominating petitions, generated more calls from Trenton than any other post of the year.
The worst joke of the month has consequences that will last at least a decade. “Continuity of representation,” a political value in the mind of Rutgers professor Alan Rosenthal, trumped competitiveness and the state constitution in determining the lines of the new gerrymandered legislative map.
The stakes were so high that Governor Christie got personally involved in the negotiations regarding the map. But Rosenthal’s was the only vote that counted. The professor was not persuaded by the governor.
The map was so gerrymandered for the Democrats that Christie and the Republicans did not even try to win control of the legislature. The governor, who came into office vowing to “turn Trenton upside down” transformed into the “compromiser in chief” in order to salvage what he could of his reform agenda.
While Rosenthal preserved the status quo for the Trenton trough swilling class, he unwittingly contributed to the creatation of a national Republican rock star, as Christie, freed up from having to work to win control of the legislature transferred his political attentions to the national stage.
Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore told MMM that the Democrats put Singer and Kean in the same district in the hopes that the GOP would waste resources on a contentious primary in a safe district. The real reason was that the Democrats were horrified at the prospect of Dan Jacobson returning to the legislature in the upper house.
Jacobson was preparing a fanatasy Republican primary challenge to Kean for Senate should Wall and Asbury Park remain in the same district. The Democrats, who have never understood Monmouth County, didn’t realize the futility of such an endeavor. But they knew Jacobson and they weren’t taking any chances. So they put Senator Jennifer Beck in the same district as Jacobson, knowing that he would never challenge her in a primary. Jacobson, through his newspaper, created Jennifer Beck. Just ask him.
The new 11th district would be represented by Beck in the Senate and Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande in the Assembly. A district represented by three women. A historic first.
Assemblyman Dave Rible, formerly of the 11th, was now in the 30th with Singer and Kean.
The new 12th district provided brief drama due to the fact that the lines created a senate vacancy. Sam Thompson of Middlesex County and Ronald Dancer of Ocean County were the incumbent Assemblymen in the predominently Western Monmouth district. The Monmouth GOP wanted to keep three senators. Thompson wanted to move up. Freeholder Director Rob Clifton had long eyed Thompson’s seat in the assembly, but the senate vacancy presented an unexpected opportunity. Always level headed and not one to needlessly rock the boat, Clifton let the Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex and Burlington chairmen figure it out. Thompson got the senate nod and Clifton joined the ticket with Dancer running for assembly.
The 13th district became even safer for Senator Joe Kyrillos. Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon of Little Silver joined Kyrillos and Assemblywoman Amy Handlon in representing the district. Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornick, a Democrat, had his ambitions put on hold by the map makers who put Marlboro into the 13th.
The Democrats did the best they could, but only put up nominal opposition in the Monmouth legislative districts and on the county level.
Governor Christie’s flirtation with the national media and GOP fundraisers over running for president started to build momentum during March. He told reporters in Washington that he wouldn’t be governor in 2014. He told the National Review’s Rick Lowry “I already know I could win” the presidency.
The Monmouth County Freeholders suspended three SCAT drivers who had called out sick on February 25 but were caught on camera protesting labor reforms in Trenton. State Senator Joe Kyrillos praised the Freeholders for their action and stepped up his call for civil service reform.
Anna Little told The Auditor that she was thinking of running for U.S. Senate instead of Congress.
Peter Burnham was suspended as Brookdale College President on March 3. On March 9 Burnham resigned.
Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray accurately predicted that Dr. Alan Rosenthal, the tie breaking member of the legislative reapportionment, would choose the Democrats new legislative map. Murray based his prediction on Rosenthal’s scholarlly work espousing “continuity of representation,” i.e., that there is a value to voters being continuously represented by the same legislator after redistricting.
Even though MMM debunked the value of “continuity of representation” and the Bayshore Tea Party Group submitted a constitutional map, Rosenthal did indeed side with the Democrats, thereby assuring Democratic control of the legislature at least until the 2021 election.
The stakes are apparently very high as the Legislative Reapportionment Commission works almost around the clock this week to settle on a map that could determine the partisan control of the New Jersey State Legislature for the next 10 years.
The 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans on the commission are working to convince the 11th “Independent” member or the commission, Dr. Alan Rosenthal, PhD of Rutgers to choose their proposed map. Rosenthal is said to be trying to either forge a compromise map or will choose one. Politickernj is reporting that Rosenthal is using the Democratic map as his foundation.
But who are the stakes high for?
Ultimately the stakes are high for all New Jersey residents, as what is decided this week will inevitably impact the quality of all of our lives over the next decade. But are most New Jersey residents even paying attention?
Are the commissioners in New Brunswick working so hard this week for the good of the people of the State, or are they fighting for power, control and the money that comes along with it. Certainly there are commissioners that have pure motives. I’d like to think that they are Republicans. Surely my Democratic readers hope the same of their side.
The Bayshore Tea Party Group has proposed a map that meets all the requirements set out in the Constitution. Turns out that, as a side benefit that proposed map also increases the competitiveness of the districts, and likely would increase minority representation, according to Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray’s analysis of the map.
So why are they working so hard in New Brunswick? Why can’t both sides and Rosenthal just embrace the BTPG’s Constitutional “People’s Map?”
It turns out that there are “principles” not found in the State or U.S Constitutions driving the efforts. Perhaps I should say principals rather than principles. The principle principals are incumbents. The districts belong to them. The office’s they hold are theirs, not the people’s. That’s how it is in practice.
Even Rosenthal buys into incumbent protection. He puts it in noble sounding academic jargon, espousing the “continuity of representation” and the value of crafting a map that is “minimally disruptive.”
Continuous for who? Minimally disruptive to who? Rosenthal’s rhetoric and scholarly writings make it sound as if “continuity of representation” and “minimal disruption” are of value to the electorate. But are they?
It seems to me that most people are oblivious to what legislative districts they live in and relatively few know who their representatives are.
I don’t have empiracle data to back that hunch up, so I called Patrick Murray. He said that he is unaware of recent polling data of residents awareness of their districts or their legislators, but that he shares my hunch.
So I took to the streets. Main Street in Belford actually, to find some data. This is what I found:
Watch the video. Some of it is pretty funny. While not as scientific as one of Murray’s polls, I doubt the results would change with a larger statistical sample and with interviews throughout the state. Decades of miserably low turnout in legislative elections are statistically significant enough to conclude that most people are not paying attention to the legislature, and don’t know who their legislators are.
Maybe a Constitutional, non-gerrymandered map would change that. Maybe people would pay attention and vote if their vote mattered.
Sure, I feel for my friends in the legislature who would be maximally disrupted by the adoption of the BTPG’s map. But the offices they hold and the districts they represent don’t belong to them.
There won’t be real change in Trenton, the city won’t be turned upside down, unless there is a legislative map adopted that does not take into account the residency of incumbents.
The Republicans on the commission should embrace the BTPG’s map and invite Rosenthal to join them.