Sweeney: Republicans missed a big opportunity to pick up seats

TRENTON – Republicans had their best shot to make gains in the state Legislature Tuesday night, but they missed their opportunity, said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The top Senate lawmaker says Republicans – led by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Sr. – fumbled their best opportunity for GOP gains. Sweeney, speaking to reporters a day after the election, conceded that the possibility of a Gov. Chris Christie coattail effect had Democrats on alert.

“They had a 30-point tidal wave,” Sweeney said. “I have to tell you, I was nervous. But, we worked a plan.”

The failure to capture on Christie’s success also means Democrats are hopeful they will be able to pick up additional seats in the Legislature in elections to come, Sweeney said.

“We had some close races,” he said, adding, “[But] the Republicans didn’t win this year, so they have to be thinking, ‘Oh my God, what’s next?’”

However, Sweeney wouldn’t say what seats Democrats believe are in play in the coming election cycles.

“I’m not like junior,” Sweeney said with a smile, referring to the Senate minority leader.

“I’m not going to tell you … where we’re going,” he said. “We’re going to go where we think we’re going to win and we’re going to work aggressively to pick up more seats.”

Sweeney also declined to discuss whether there will be a shake-up in the Senate minority office following the results of the election.

“Listen, I focused on my 24 Senate seats,” he said. “Junior has to explain to his colleagues what his strategy is. … That’s amongst them to figure out.”

Following the election, PolitickerNJ reported a change in Republican leadership is possible in the coming days.

Sweeney was in Trenton on the heels of Tuesday’s election for a small rally celebrating the minimum wage ballot initiative which voters approved during the November election.

Sweeney’s stop at the Trenton Deliverance Center was one of four post-election stops he has planned for the day. The other stops will be in areas where Democratic Senate candidates fought in competitive races.

The top Senate lawmaker will also appear in East Brunswick with Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) and Sen.-elect Peter Barnes (D-18) and in battleground district 38 where Sen. Bob Gordon (D) won a hard-fought battle to keep his Senate seat. He’ll also stop with LD 1 and 2 winners Sens. Jeff Van Drew and Jim Whelan.

Sweeney: Republicans missed a big opportunity to pick up seats