Column: There's an Election Coming. Really
Polls focus on November as most give challengers in the few primary contests little chance of victory.
Last week brought a number of polls affirming the fickle nature of New Jersey’s electorate and a reminder, despite any lack of enthusiasm, that there is an election in less than a month.
Our votes don’t count again this year in presidential balloting as the primary was moved back to June—holding a separate president-only primary in February 2008 cost the state an extra $12 million. Most people don’t seem to care. It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Mitt Romney would have won the Republican primary here, anyway.
With everyone else out of the GOP primary, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind Poll looked ahead to November. It found New Jerseyans giving President Obama a 50 percent approval rating and a 14-point lead over Romney. That’s not far off from findings of mid-April Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University polls.
What’s perhaps most interesting about this is that the Democratic president’s positives are just 1 point lower than the approval rating given to Republican Gov. Christie in polling done at the same time. Fickle, yes, but New Jerseyans are traditionally independent voters, ignoring tickets and coattails.
While there is a contest in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat, none of the Jersey pollsters have asked for opinions on that race. And the election is just three weeks away. The FDU poll was the latest to put incumbent U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, the Democrat, against N.J. Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth. And its results echoed three earlier polls in finding Menendez beats Kyrillos, and who is Kyrillos anyway?
It’s a different election scene than four years ago. In April 2008, FDU had already hosted a senatorial debate among the three Republican candidates, including N.J. Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris.
Opposing Kyrillos this year are: Bader G. Qarmout, a North Jersey tea partier; Joe “Rudy” Rullo, a South Jersey tea partier; and David Douglas Brown, whose nominating petition for the 2009 gubernatorial primary was invalidated.
No pundit gives anyone even a remote chance at beating Kyrillos, a close Christie ally. Still, this is a democracy and there ought to be at least some forums for people to be able hear all the candidates’ views on the issues to help make an informed decision.
The 11th District, which covers most of Morris County as well as Hopatcong under the redistricting plan adopted last December, offers no contest. That virtually assures re-election for Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Harding Republican, even though he will have a Democratic opponent in November, as the district continues to lean heavily toward the GOP.
There is, at least, a choice in the 7th, which now includes Washington Township, the Chesters and other Morris municipalities up to Mount Arlington. David Larsen is running as an ultraconservative alternative to Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican who has moved rightward since joining Congress.
Still, pollsters and political observers say the new map makes it unlikely any incumbents will lose, except in the nearby 9th, where two Democratic congressmen–Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman–are battling it out. The GOP map put Rothman into the 5th, with Republican Rep. Scott Garrett, and rather than fight that losing battle, Rothman decided to move into the new 9th to challenge Pascrell.
The state is losing one of its congressmen (and yes, men is the word to use) because the population did not grow as fast in New Jersey as it did in other states in the South and West.
While this may not be the most exciting of primary years, determining who represents you and New Jersey in Washington is important. There are three weeks left until the primary, so if you have a choice, find out whatever you can about the candidates and make it an informed one.
Colleen O'Dea is a writer, editor, researcher, data analyst, web page designer and mapper with almost three decades in the news business. Her column appears Mondays.
This column appears on Patch sites serving communities in Morris, Somerset and Sussex counties. Comments below may be by readers of any of those sites.