The 2013 New Jersey elections were an interesting anomaly. Governor Chris Christie won 61.2% of the two-party vote and yet Democrats in the state legislature came out of it with the same 24-16 State Senate majority and 48-32 General Assembly majority they went in with. Only one incumbent Democrat went down, Assemblyman Nelson Albano of LD-01, but Democrats compensated by defeating an incumbent Republican in LD-02, Assemblyman John Amodeo, in an upset. Democrats even gained a bit of ground in county government elections and Christie being on the ballot had little effect on the Republicans.
Contrast that to Gov. Tom Kean, Sr.'s mega landslide victory in 1985 when he beat Democrat Peter Shapiro 69.6%-29.3%(!) and flipped the Assembly from a 44-36 Democratic majority to an astounding 50-30 Republican majority (the Senate was unchanged as it was not up for election that year). Even in 2009, when Christie won narrowly over Gov. Jon Corzine, Republicans only netted 1 Assembly seat (which Democrats promptly netted back in 2011) and gained significant ground in county elections. The dearth of coattails in 2013 were made even more surprising by these comparisons. Although during the campaign itself, most insiders predicted Democrats would probably decline to narrower majorities. Polls showed Democrats leading the generic ballot, but Christie's strong leads was thought too powerful for a few Democrats.
All throughout the campaign was the controversy over Christie having any downballot coattails. Republicans constantly played up the possibility of Christie having strong coattails, despite polling showing that was not the case. Polling all throughout showed Democrats leading the generic ballot by at least mid-single digits. Democrats, not to be complacent, concentrated a lot of campaign finance on keeping the majority and minimizing coattails as much as possible. The biggest players in this effort were a D.C. super PAC called the "Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security" and a super PAC funded by the powerful NJEA (teachers' union).
Two leading players for the Republicans were Senate Minority Leader (and 2006 U.S. Senate candidate) Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Brammick (R-21). Tom Kean and his lieutenant Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-13), along with Assemblyman Brammick, raised good sums of money for the GOP legislative campaign committees. Being in safe Republican districts, they were also able to make ample monetary and in-kind donations from their large campaign coffers to candidates that needed a shot in the arm to be competitive.
Leading the Democratic side was Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), and Senator (and ex-Senate President and ex-Acting Governor) Dick Codey (D-27). All three being fundraising magnets, they were also able to lend monetary and in-kind assistance to their fellow Democrats. Sweeney, however, was in a competitive district (Obama won it 55%-44% in 2012). Tom Kean tried to run a strong campaign against him, but in the end, it was all for naught.
After the election and the Democrats in the Senate were confirmed to go back with the same 24-16 seat majority they went out with, Sweeney took time to rub Kean's failure in his face. He trolled and teased the Minority Leader, even buying this cheap web ad of himself below on the Politicker NJ website.
Shortly after the elections, there was a power struggle behind the scenes about whether or not Tom Kean should be kept on as Minority Leader. Having failed to pick up any Senate seats for Republicans under his watch since taking the position in January 2008, some Republicans felt it was time to switch to Senator O'Toole (R-40), a trusted Christie confidant. Although Christie claimed to not take a side, he did meet with the GOP caucus in private and everyone can tell he put his thumb on the scale for O'Toole, not liking Kean's go-it-alone approach for running elections. In the end, Kean held on in a caucus vote by 10-6. Ex-Gov. Tom Kean, Sr., a longtime friend of Christie, struck back at Christie for daring to dethrone his boy.
Now, without further ado, let's analyze the 2013 NJ legislative elections. It should be disclosed off the bat that I am registered to vote in LD-08 and did canvassing for the Democratic candidates in LD-18 (near my university). In this diary I will cover the "Big 6" (LD-1,2,3,14,18,38), the most competitive legislative districts this year. I will also occasionally discuss a few local elections (e.g. some county Boards of Chosen Freeholders elections) in certain counties. Let's begin.