Get Out the (Local) Vote!

Written by N. James Brago; Photo Courtesy of Pete Linforth

With the ongoing and increasingly controversial presidential election dwindling down (only two weeks left!), it is important for New Jersey citizens to turn their attention to the local election ballots; congressional elections in New Jersey seem to be following a precedent that ensures an incumbent win.

In District 1, for example, Rep. Donald Norcross (D) will have no trouble defending his title as congressman in a district where he won by almost 30,000 votes in 2014. This tale of congressional district dominance will not be tested in District 1. Yet, if we take a look at District 2, newcomer Dave Cole (D) is challenging longtime politician and incumbent Frank Lobiondo (R) in the predominantly red district.

Cole previously worked as a volunteer organizer for the Obama campaign in 2008 and has solidified himself as a prominent progressive in South Jersey. The results of prior elections unfortunately do not bode well for Cole (Lobiondo won with over 60% of the vote in 2014) but, hey, in an election year with more plot twists than an M. Night Shyamalan flick, anything is within the realm of possibility. Plus with powerful press releases that tie Lobiondo to a history of shady political contributions with Donald Trump, do not be surprised if Dave Cole draws attention on November 8th.

Nonetheless, losing an election has never been the end of the world either. Earlier this year, for example, Alex Law sprang onto the New Jersey political scene with an exciting and progressive campaign. Although Law lost his primary battle to Donald Norcross in District 1, he has made a lasting mark as a progressive voice for New Jersey residents by taking ardent stances in favor of campaign finance reform.

In fact, when analyzing past elections, losing might actually end up as a precedent to success. John F. Kennedy lost a vice presidential bid at the 1956 Democratic convention, Bernie Sanders lost a Vermont gubernatorial bid in 1986, and presidents like Richard Nixon and Thomas Jefferson lost their elections before they eventually won the presidency. A loss for Dave Cole wouldn’t have anybody jumping for joy, but in the long run, a loss acts as a jumping-off point for political success.

Additionally, New Jersey’s 2017 gubernatorial race is becoming more narrow with each passing month. The Democratic primary has been rather anti-climactic in terms of challengers. So far, Philip Murphy, former ambassador to Germany and former Goldman Sachs executive for 23 years, has taken center stage in the Democratic primary. What appeared to be a “Steve vs. Steve” matchup between Progressive Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop and Democratic legislature leader Steve Sweeney didn’t quite translate into reality. Fulop recently announced he will only seek reelection as Mayor of Jersey City in 2017, and has since endorsed Phil Murphy. Steve Sweeney has also stated that he is not running for governor of New Jersey, giving Murphy a clear path to not only victory among Democrats, but most likely the gubernatorial election as well.

On the Republican side, chances of governorship are looking grim. Chris Christie is seemingly spending more time on the Trump campaign than as Governor of New Jersey. That, along with the debacle infamously known as “Bridgegate,” has led his approval ratings to drop right alongside Trump’s; it’s hard for a party to hold any position in government when the incumbent has low approval ratings. Christie, who was once a possible rising star in the Republican Party has seen his favorability ratings fall and his window for higher office, shut. Even the Republican Party establishment is no longer a fan of Governor Christie.

With New Jersey being a traditionally Democratic stronghold and Murphy being an experienced politician, I have an idea as to whom our next governor will be, and after reading Murphy’s plan for New Jersey, economic growth and prosperity looks to be on the horizon for the Garden State. Only time will tell, but after eight years of Christie’s policies, virtually anything would suit us better.

At this point, I don’t even think you need a reminder to get out and vote, but this time, you’ll recognize names on the ballot that go beyond the presidential bid. If you don’t know where your polling place is, check it out at voter.njsvrs.com, and make your voice heard on November 8th.

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