Winners and Losers: Election Day 2015

Budget Address

WINNERS

Vincent Prieto and Lou Greenwald

We’ll admit it. We thought Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi in LD1 would be the night’s only casualty. But as it turned out, Republicans lost three seats (maybe four, see below), giving Assembly Democrats 51 seats in the legislature to the GOP’s 29. North Jersey’s Speaker Prieto and South Jersey’s Majority Leader Greenwald can fight it out later over who’s more deserving of the accolades. For the moment, they’re both big winners on the night.

Mike Muller

Great night for the leader of the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee – maybe the best of his career when you think about the fact that his team’s opposition research turned the usually competitive LD38 into a non-event, enabling the concentration of Democratic Party resources on LD11. remember, too, it was Muller who personally took his pen knife out during 2011 redistricting and carved up 11 for future conquest.

Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee’s (PAC) 

PAC money accounted for $9.5 million or 42% of all spending in this past cycle, as independent groups that can raise unlimited cash continue to displace and replace party organizations. No longer do those party chairman have to feel obliged to strut around like Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas. Everyone knows it’s a joke at this point – or will be  soon if this trend continues. With the rise of PACs, party chairs and county party organizations don’t wield the kind of power they once did. LD11 provided an interesting example of the developing phenomenon this cycle as the General Majority PAC associated with George Norcross III financed amped up television and radio ads against Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, arguably overpowering all the other carefully crafted messaging in the district.  General Majority and the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) Garden State Forward together accounted for almost $8 million in spending. In the words of Jeff Brindle, director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), “Without new reforms, voters could be faced with a future where they have little idea who is spending the money to elect public officials.”

George Norcross III

South Jersey Democrats needed wins in LD1 and LD2, and they got them. Then GN3 forked General Majority PAC money into LD11 to make sure insiders knew his fingerprints are on those new assembly people (see below). Another good chess game.

Lou Stellato

The political advisers of the Bergen County Democratic chairman debated last year whether they should insist that Stellato be photographed alongside the Cesar’s statue outside the famous Atlantic City casino at last year’s League of Municipalities conference. This year they face the same optical option. Stellato’s candidates swept last night, as the chairman solidified control of the freeholder board in the state’s most politically complex county. It’s a very good place to be as the state careens toward the 2017 gubernatorial contest.

John Currie

The state Democratic Party chairman took care of business in his home county of Passaic with wins by his three freeholders even as he stood as the central overarching figure on a statewide landscape dominated by Democratic Party wins.

Vin Gopal

Long hailed as one of the most talented up and comers in New Jersey politics, the Monmouth County Democratic Chairman from Long Branch appears poised to run against state Senator Jen Beck (D-11) in 2017. Beck will be a very tough out, but Gopal is a unique politician now emboldened by the loses last night of Beck’s running mates Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande.

Bill Layton

The Burlington County Republican Chairman swept two Democrats out of office last night, thereby removing the threat of having to lose the freeholder majority next year in his county when a presidential race significantly changes the political dynamics in BurlCo.We also would like to recognize GOP operative Josh Foote in Burlington County. The hardest working kid in the business, his ground game numbers in the county were otherworldly.  His team knocked on doors for the GOP ticket starting in the spring.

Chris Brown

In a Democratic year, the LD2 Republican hung on in a battleground district and won despite facing big deficits in cash and manpower. A Desert Storm veteran and former judge who has a self-effacing, winning personality, is a good debater, and has a strong independent streak, Brown positioned himself with his victory last night as one of the Republican Party’s brightest lights.

Ray Lesniak

Aided by Sean Caddle who ran the PAC associated with the winning team, the LD20 senator’s allies took control of the Elizabeth Board of Education. It has long been Lesniak’s Mount Everest – that elusive mountain peak among the billowy surmounted stacks of Union County’s industrial wasteland.

Dawn Zimmer

Allies affiliated with the Mayor of Hoboken last night won all the contested ward races, with the exception of Zimmer’s own: Ward Four, where the mayor’s old nemesis, Ruben Ramos, reclaimed a seat on the council. The showing enables Team Zimmer to maintain control of the local governing body in a testy town.

John Ducey 

Assisted by veteran operative Mitch Seim, the mayor of Brick ran the table last night, maintaining Democratic Party control of a typically Republican town in an overwhelmingly Republican county. The results looked like this:

Frank PANNUCCI JR. (REP)         7.90%     3,477

Martin EBERT (REP)                     8.55%     3,765

Michael R. CONTI (REP)                8.59%     3,783

Charles D. BACON (REP)              8.18%      3,602

Andrea ZAPCIC (DEM)                 16.35%     7,201

Lisa CRATE (DEM)                       15.97%     7,031

James T. FOZMAN (DEM)            15.60%     6,868

Arthur HALLORAN (DEM)             15.59%     6,866

Bob MOORE (IND)                         3.15%     1,387

WRITE-IN                                        0.12%     53

44,033

UNDETERMINED

Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey

Could they possibly have known what they got themselves in for? Aided by cash from Prieto and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (who has close ties to Gopal and always gives to the Monmouth Democrats), the LD11 winners also enjoyed (apparently) the benefits of PAC attack ads financed by the South Jersey-affiliated general Majority that stymied Angelini and Casagrande. Democrats Houghtaling and Downey land like babes in the woods in the middle of an increasingly acrimonious North v. South conflict with the governor’s office at stake in 2017. Both sides will be tugging relentlessly at their sleeves every time they enter the Statehouse.

Donna Simon

There are questions this morning about the official outcome in LD16, where the incumbent Republican assemblywoman may have to depend on provisional ballots to get past Democratic challenger Andrew Zwicker. Way too close to call right now. Stay posted for this developing story.

LOSERS

Chris Christie

Last night’s outcome hurts his already flailing presidential bid. He’ll spin it, of course, or try. He’ll talk about how he needs to be in the White House so he can change the culture of the entire country in order to… prevent it from looking like his home state of New Jersey??? What? Christie and the GOP will rail about the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and its influence, and make the case that he was the governor who stood up to them, by God, so that “good folks” could finally begin to have a voice in this state ruined by Democrats, but if that were the case, who did the NJEA dominate this past cycle and diminish Republican power in the legislature?

Jennifer Beck

Once the Republicans’ most genuine rising star in the legislature, the state senator from New Jerssey’s 11th District now must face reelection in 2017 with three obvious things going against her: she just lost her two running mates (Angelini and Casagrande) as Democrats are already hanging the drapes on the North Shore of the Atlantic Ocean; the political ruination by Christie of a Republican Party he might have built instead of merely burnishing his own individual brand name, makes the GOP long-shot contenders for Drumthwacket two years from now  and a drag on someone like Beck; in order to help Christie, she flipped her vote on that gun bill last month, in the process serving up an issue to increasingly salivating Dems.

Bob Yudin

The Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) chairman watched what was once an empire collapse with a cruel vengeance last night, his freeholder candidates’ losses assisted by the awful twist of failed LD38 candidate Tony Cappola’s “Outrageous” meltdown. Just a very bad night for Yudin who may be limping to the finish line of a roller coaster political career.

Jon Bramnick

The Republican Party’s happy warrior will easily be elected minority leader of his caucus, but the loss of three Republican assembly seats has to sting the prospective 2017 gubernatorial candidate. Bramnick did so much that was necessary, as he galloped around the state making a sustained case for why Democrats needed to go. But in the end he faced the combination of a map that renders most of New Jersey’s legislative districts uncompetitive and a tanking Christie. It was too much to overcome.

Sam Fiocchi, Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande

The state lost three (and maybe four, see above) Republican lawmakers last night, including two thirds of one of the state’s two slates composed entirely of women (the other is LD29).

Rafael Fajardo, Tony Monteiro and Ana Maria Amin

The unreconstructed rebel opponents of Lesniak’s Union County Democratic Party finally appear to have run out of room in order to throw punches, having been stripped piece by piece in the aftermath of their high political watermark in 2011. Fajaro negotiated a surprise play a year ago to keep his grip on the levers of local school board power but that appears now to be over. The losses by Team Fajardo ensure that Amin will no longer be president of the School Board.

Carmelo Garcia

The LD32 Assemblyman lost his bid to keep the game alive as he went down in defeat last night in his quest for a Ward 6 council seat.

The NJGOP

It was a Nnghtmare. In the words of Colonel Kurtz, “The horror. The horror.”

Winners and Losers: Election Day 2015