One recurring theme in newspaper endorsements from across the state: some candidates don’t properly prepare for editorial board meetings. In several cases during this cycle, newspapers said they were reluctant to endorse incumbents, but had no choice after challengers were either ill-equipped to answer public policy questions, or simply did not respond to invitations to participate. Newspapers wouldn’t have necessarily endorsed the challengers if they met them, or if they were not competent, but incumbents are favored when the challengers don’t even show up.
The Record and the Herald News still endorsed Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), likely to be the next Assembly Speaker, even though they were “skeptical, given the heavy influence of New Jersey’s political machinery,” of her claim to be an independent thinker – and despite her possession of another full-time government job. Oliver’s GOP opponents did not meet with the newspaper’s editorial board: “We have no sense of whether they can back up their promises.”
In the neighboring 35th district, the Record and the Herald News lamented over their choices when they endorsed incumbents Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) and Elease Evans (D-Paterson).
“It is possible the Republicans would make excellent members of the Assembly, yet they did not meet with The Herald News’ editorial board. Their positions on issues important to the state and to the district are less clear to us. While we are not comfortable, given these difficult times, with two incumbents who hold close ties to the state’s powerful unions, we cannot endorse challengers whose positions and allegiances are largely unknown,” the editorials said. “It would be better if voters in the 35th had a greater choice for Assembly. As it is, the choices are few, and from here, the known is a step above the unknown.”
The Courier Post complained that two of the three Republican candidates for Camden County Freeholder wouldn’t take their calls, and the third candidate was not even remotely ready for public office. Brian Kluchnick, a GOP Assembly candidate in the fifth district, also didn’t return phone calls. The Courier-Post has surely shown a willingness to endorse Republican candidates.
The Gloucester County Times said that residents “would benefit from even slow progress toward a loyal opposition on the all-Democrat county freeholder board, but Republicans Ron Brittin and Chris Del Borrello are unprepared to be good freeholders.” Britten, the editorial said, has shown little enthusiasm for wanting to be a freeholder,” and that while “he can speak in generalities against high taxes and Democrat Party cronyism, he offers no apology for dealing in nothing but generalities.”
The Asbury Park Press called the Democratic Assembly candidates in the 30th district “weak,” and said the Democratic Assembly candidates in the 13th district “have offered little to suggest they are worthy of supplanting the incumbents.” In District 11, the APP said that Democrat Rick Bolger, a former Brielle Councilman, “is not ready for prime time. He doesn’t seem to have a full understanding of the issues facing the state.”
In the 10th district, the APP made their endorsement decision ten minutes into their interview: they asked the Assembly candidates what letter grade they would give Gov. Jon Corzine on taxes and spending. The Democrats said an A, so they endorsed the GOP, including Assemblywoman-elect DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach), who’s “inexperience was evident in some of her responses to questions,” they said. The Press of Atlantic City said that Gove’s “answers to questions about major issues confronting the state were disappointingly vague.” But Democrat Richard Visotcky’s unconditional support for video lottery terminals in the state’s racetracks… is a game-ender for us.”