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Turnover guaranteed in 2017 state Senate races

Friday, February 10, 2017   (0 Comments)
Share | 02/10/17

In New Jersey as elsewhere, incumbents tend to have an advantage over their opponents in the form of name recognition, favorable districting and the ability to raise money. But this year, when elections will again be held for every seat in the Legislature, some turnover is guaranteed in New Jersey’s upper house. Five senators, including one representing parts of Bergen, Morris, Essex and Passaic counties, have already announced their intention to leave office at the end of the year. That will make for an eventful — and likely costly — season of Senate campaigns to run concurrent with the high-stakes competition to replace Chris Christie as governor. Senate candidates alone spent nearly $19 million on their campaigns in 2013 and may have reason to spend even more this cycle with legislative redistricting on the horizon in 2021.

Democrats are hoping to build on their majorities, which stand at 24-16 in the Senate and 52-28 in the Assembly, as they try to tackle such issues as pension reform, infrastructure improvements and school funding. Gaining a few seats would make it easier for Democratic leaders in the Senate to control their caucus, which could split under a new governor, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “They can afford having individual senators rebel every once in a while,” he said.
 Republicans, on the other hand, want to chip away at their numerical disadvantage that, according to Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., has allowed “the property tax crisis that exists in New Jersey” to go unaddressed by the Democratic majority.

“This is still the Democrats’ map to lose,” Murray said. “They’re fighting on Republican turf.” Also retiring this year is Republican Sen. Kevin O’Toole, who has represented parts of Bergen, Morris, Essex and Passaic counties in the Legislature for more than 20 years, as well as Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth. Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, is stepping down from his post to run for governor. But a number of other factors could affect the election in ways that are difficult to predict. Results of a survey published this week by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll showed that 55 percent of registered voters in New Jersey disapprove of the Democratic-controlled Legislature, up from 44 percent in mid-2015.At the same time, a whopping 78 percent of state voters disapprove of Christie’s job performance, making him the least popular New Jersey governor in four decades, according to the results of another poll released this week by Quinnipiac University.


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