If Democrats are successful in bucking the trend of mid-term elections going against the party that controls the governorship, as they were four years ago, it might be a signal of just how blue a state New Jersey has become — or evidence that Larry Bartals' 2001 redistricting map was, as the GOP claims, truly one-sided.
What makes this interesting is that Democrats bucked the tradition and picked up three Assembly seats in 2003 even though Democratic Governor James E. McGreevey was largely unpopular — a September 24 Quinnipiac University poll showed McGreevey's approvals upside down, 35%-52%. The only Republican challenger to win was Bill Baroni, who was the only candidate not to run a campaign that focused on McGreevey's record.
This year, Republicans are again running against the Democratic Governor — this time the struggling Jon "Hold Me Accountable" Corzine. Corzine's numbers in the last Quinnipiac poll were fine (48%-39%), but his monetization plan is potentially problematic in some key legislative districts, and recent news that he gave former girlfriend Carla Katz's brother-in-law a $15,000 cash gift after he promised that he no longer had any financial ties to the powerful CWA President, could impact his numbers.
Senate Republicans could gain seats this year — there is a reasonable scenario that gets them to a 20-20 split, a gain of two seats — but they are also facing strong challenges to at least three seats they hold now. Assembly Republicans could go up — or down.
Republicans lost two Assembly seats during Christie Whitman's first mid-term election, and three during her second. During Jim Florio's mid-term, Democrats lost ten Senate seats and 21 Assembly seats. The GOP lost two Senate seats and one Assembly seat during the first mid-term of Tom Kean's governorship, and one Senate seat and eight Assembly seats during the second. When Brendan Byrne was Governor, the Democrats lost seventeen Assembly seats in 1975 and ten Assembly seats in 1979. Bill Cahill saw ten of his fellow Republicans lose Senate seats and twenty lose Assembly seats in 1971.