The Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine had a pretty good column today, he points out how Chris Christie is making a big mistake by trying to court urban voters at the expense of the suburban voters. Mulshine points out that it was Monmouth and Ocean Counties that pushed Christie over the top, not Essex or Hudson. Why would he expect to make inroads in counties that are clearly opposed to his ideals?
Also of interest to residents in the 13th District, Mulshine gives another shout-out to Bob Brown. Brown ran as a Democrat in District 13 against Amy Handlin and Sam Thompson and did a better than expected job at the polls.
According to an internal Republican opinion poll that was leaked, Brown actually was leading Thompson with a week and a half left in the race but was done in by the anti-Corzine tsunami that washed over the bayshore area.
It’s a good read, check it out:
After I wrote a column last week critical of Gov.-elect Chris Christie’s transition team, which is packed with Trenton insiders and McGreevey administration retreads, I got an e-mail from Bob Brown.
“Where is the average Joe, the taxpayer from the suburbs?” Bob asked.
Nowhere, that’s where. If Christie was in the mood to put Democrats on his team, then he might have considered a Democrat like his old Seton Hall Law School classmate Brown. Brown is an ex-cop from Old Bridge who ran for the Assembly as a Democrat more conservative than the incumbent Republicans.
Brown didn’t win. But he did succeed in highlighting the issue that should be the No. 1 priority of the incoming Republican administration. And that’s the need for property tax relief for the suburbs.
A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Friday revealed that “New Jerseyans want their taxes cut; no other priority comes close,” in the words of the poll directors. And the tax they most want to see cut is the property tax, the poll showed.
But Christie made it clear immediately following his victory that the cities, not the suburbs, are his first priority. He spent the day after the election visiting Newark to kiss the ring of Democratic party boss Steve Adubato.
After paying his respects to Essex County, which went for Gov. Jon Corzine by a 65,000-vote margin, he blew a kiss to Hudson County, which went Democratic by a 46,000-vote margin. He included on his team a member in good standing of the Hudson Democratic machine, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham.
As for the aforementioned “average Joe from the suburbs,” Christie will be making the transition without him, even though it was the suburbs that gave Christie his victory, specifically the suburbs in the middle of the state.
Patrick Murray of the Monmouth University Polling Institute notes that turnout was down this year in every county except Ocean and Monmouth. And those two counties voted Republican by unprecedented margins, 70,000 and 64,000 respectively. But Republicans can’t count on that happening again, Murray said.
“It’s not clear this was a sea change in the way in which Jerseyans vote,” said Murray. “It was clearly just an anti-Corzine vote.”
In Murray’s view, and mine, Corzine committed political suicide with that ill-fated 2007 tour of the state to win support for his plan to borrow $38 billion against future tolls. That was the main factor in his losses in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties, all of which are heavily dependent on the toll roads.
Another factor was Corzine’s decision not to go on radio station 101.5 FM, which hosted that “pigs will fly” Statehouse rally in early 2008. That decision meant that Corzine got bashed without rebuttal by the station’s always amusing talk-show hosts for two months leading up to the election.
This permitted Christie to win despite his strategy, which was to focus on the cities rather than the suburbs. That strategy was a failure.
“Look at Newark, they were upside down 32,000 for him,” said Steve Acropolis, who is mayor of Brick Township in Ocean County. “East Orange was upside-down 10,000 for him.”
What saved Christie were the big suburbs in the 101.5 listening area such as Brick, where he piled up an 11,000-vote margin, and Toms River, where he got his biggest margin, more than 12,000.
Yet in a post-election meeting with the Ocean County mayors, the governor-elect told them they can’t expect to be getting more state aid as a result of their support. Acropolis said the suburban mayors don’t want special favors, just an equal share of state aid.
“I don’t want him to say we gave him the second highest vote total so we’re going to get extra stuff,” said Acropolis. “I just want what’s fair for our residents.”
Suburban residents realize next year will be a tough one because of the budget problems facing the state, he said. But their patience has a limit.
“He’s got four years and if he doesn’t do anything, he’ll be a one-term governor,” said the mayor.
That’s not a threat so much as a cold reality. The new map of New Jersey politics is not a promising one for Republicans. Bergen County used to ring up Republican margins as reliably as Ocean or Morris. But Christie managed to lose Bergen by a small margin. As for the cities, Christie is now the third Republican gubernatorial nominee in a row to fail miserably in a try at breaking the Democratic stranglehold on the urban vote.
That leaves those midstate suburbs as the battleground for any future elections. And they produced those huge margins not out of any great love for Christie, but out of intense dislike for Corzine, said pollster Murray.
“Nothing motivates a voter like anger,” said Murray. “And Christie had better hope they’re not angry in 2013.”
If he keeps up the way he’s going, they will be. And not at the Democrat.