It was a Democratic day in New Jersey as the party maintained its hold on the state Senate, added to its majority in the Assembly and held off the GOP in every competitive district.
In all, Democrats will send 48 members to the state Assembly next year and 24 members to the Senate.
Republicans had hoped to make gains in several districts, most notably 2 and 38, where the redrawn legislative map had given the GOP some daylight. But the party was thwarted by Democratic incumbents who refused to roll over.
In District 2, Incumbent Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan held off hard-charging Republican Vince Polistina, who had savagely attacked Whelan for months over his multiple public salaries and pensions. But after scorching Polistina by eight points, the incumbent let the world know he never broke a sweat.
"Frankly, you guys in the media kept saying this is a close race, this is a close race, and I kept looking at our poll numbers and being out with the public and I was like, 'I'm not sure I get that,'" Whelan said. "I felt fairly comfortable that we were going to have a reasonable margin of victory and we were able to do that."
In District 38, incumbent Democrat Bob Gordon rode his cerebral image to victory over Republican Bergen County Freeholder Director John Driscoll in a race that featured Xanadu, the state’s ugliest building. Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Wagner also held onto her seat and will be joined in the lower house next year by Democratic Maywood Mayor Tim Eustace.
In the 7th District, Republican Diane Allen maintained her choke hold on the Senate seat, but did not have lengthy enough coattails to drag her running mates to victory. Democratic incumbent Dr. Herb Conaway and newcomer Troy Singleton will represent the 7th in the Assembly.
In the 14th District, incumbent Linda Greenstein flexed her muscles with a trouncing of Republican Richard Kanka, who the GOP had hoped would reclaim the seat held by the party for two decades before it was lost to Greenstein last year. In the end Kanka’s vaunted name recognition, earned over years of battling to enact the sex offender registry law named after his murdered daughter, was not enough.
Kanka lost even his hometown of Hamilton, giving Greenstein an easy path to victory. Greenstein was joined in victory by incumbents Dan Benson and Wayne DeAngelo, ensuring Democrats will maintain control of the 14th for at least another two years.
And while Republicans made their futile charge, Democrats were able to pick up a seat by virtue of the redrawn map, which ousted Republican Domenick DiCicco from his Assembly perch in District 4. DiCicco lost his bid to remain in the Assembly representing his new home in District 3.
A late declaration by Gov. Chris Christie gave the illusion that Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan’s District 18 seat could be in play, but Diegnan won a decisive victory over Republican challengers Joseph Sinagra and Marcia Silva. Sen. Barbara Buono, who is likely on her way out as Senate Majority Leader, mopped the floor with her opponent, keeping her seat by a nearly 20-point margin.
Former Democratic Gov. Richard Codey scored a slam dunk, grabbing 64 percent of the vote district-wide and winning the newly added Morris County portion of the 27th District by an impressive 9 points. The move gives Codey bragging rights over the party contingent that had hoped to carve him out of the Senate during redistricting. The landslide also will bolster rumors that Codey is considering a bid to challenge Christie in two years.
In District 1, Democrats swept all three seats, returning Jeff Van Drew to the Senate and Nelson Albano and Matt Milam to the Assembly. Milam gave the party some palpitations late, but managed to secure victory, albeit by less than 800 votes.
But despite the Democratic success, the party was unable to pick off a seat in the 11th District as Democrats Vin Gopal and Kathy Horgan failed to live up to the hype. Each lost by over 3,000 votes.
For weeks Republicans had sought to downplay the party’s chances in the mid-terms, issuing statements and leaking memos claiming there was little chance to gain any ground. Democrats accused the GOP of playing coy, but the claims turned out to be prescient.
Early Tuesday, news surfaced that Christie would not be in-state to celebrate or commiserate with his Republican comrades in arms. He’s headed to New Hampshire to campaign for Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Democrats quietly snickered while pushing the storyline that Christie was getting out of Dodge while his lieutenants picked up the pieces. State Democratic chair John Wisniewski couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a shot.
“For weeks, our Governor has been lowering expectations in the hope that he could claim a victory tonight,” Wisniewski charged. “Well, like the braggart who’s ‘all hat and no cattle,’ our Governor was ‘all coat and no tails.’ It's no wonder Governor Christie is going to be out of state tomorrow. He’s doesn’t want to be around to answer questions about how well Democrats did tonight. He’s going to be campaigning for Governor Romney in New Hampshire. I have a message for Governor Christie – I hope you do for Mitt Romney what you’ve done for New Jersey Republicans.”
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"The frustration is she might as well have named Joe Cryan her choice for state party chair because Jason O'Donnell is simply a beard for Joe Cryan." - State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).- PolitickerNJ.com
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