OPINION: How Chris Christie’s Coattailless Landslide Jaded Down-Ballot Republicans When He Needed Them Most
Many commentators, both inside and out of New Jersey, have questioned why so few Republicans have piped up in support of Governor Chris Christie throughout the ongoing “Bridgegate” and “Sandygate” scandals.
Here’s one major but often overlooked reason: New Jersey’s Republicans went into the 2013 election with high hopes that an expected Christie landslide over hapless Democrat Barbara Buono would sweep in downballot Republicans up and down the state as happened when Tom Kean beat Peter Shapiro by a 70-29 margin in 1985.
But it didn’t work out that way.
And one big reason was a Republican GOTV strategy designed not to turn out the base in record numbers while demoralized Democrats stayed home, but in fact turn those Democrats out – for Christie and no one else.
The Christie campaign, in an effort to show that he alone was the only Republican who could win a state like New Jersey, went out of their way to create a climate that ultimately hurt down ballot Republicans instead of helping them. That’s a big reason why there’s so little good will in the state GOP for the Governor as he finds himself up against the ropes.
Republican organizations targeted not Republican voters, but Democrats and “Independents,” and they did an excellent job identifying non-Republicans who were going to vote for Chris Christie.
And these organizations turned these voters out.
But like a condemned man digging his own grave, Republican organizations were turning out voters who, while they voted for Christie, then turned around and supported every other Democrat on the ballot.
That move cost the GOP at least two Assembly seats this year, and countless municipal and county offices.
Fearful of political retribution, local GOP organizations went along with the plan as dictated by “Trenton.” Sacrificing a message for the cult of personality, Republican legislative candidates ran on vague promises of “real reform” and avoided controversial issues that would interfere with the Governor’s goal of a personal mandate. Towns with Democratic mayors and/or councils backing the governor were declared political “no-fly” zones and surrendered without any shots fired.
At the legislative level, there was no talk of taking State Senate control in order to put conservatives on the Supreme Court, but a hope that the GOP could get a few extra seats for a “functional majority” gained by co-opting the support of a “Christiecrat” Democratic State Senator to put the Governor’s people in charge.
That’s a political victory, but not a philosophical one. It would put give one left-wing State Senator virtual veto control over anything proposed. And even that didn’t happen, with Republicans gaining nothing in the State Senate and breaking even in the State Assembly.
Today Republicans actually has fewer seats in the legislature than the day Governor Christie was elected; gains down-the-ballot in places like Gloucester and Bergen counties have been erased.
Now with the scandals in the Governor’s Office and including his top-level appointees at the Port Authority, the entire New Jersey Republican Party finds itself anchored to a personality whose presence has done nothing to elect more people on a local level and whose administration has unfortunately done little to reverse the decline of our state.
With the Governor ready to leave office one way or the other, those left will have to pick up the pieces of a party with no ability to raise money, no leaders and no message.
In four years we have gotten Common Core in our schools, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, a minimum wage on auto-pilot and perhaps most disappointing for New Jersey conservatives, no tax cuts and no change in the outrageous and out-of-control liberal welfare state policies that continue to send New Jersey Congressional seats to other states.
Today’s state budget is twenty percent higher than when the Governor took office and the biggest problem facing suburban and rural voters, high property taxes caused by state government income redistribution schemes, has gotten even worse in the last four years as state aid has been redirected from suburban and rural towns to urban areas whose Democratic Mayors were being wooed for Christie reelection endorsements.
Republican Mayors, on the other hand, must find ways around the 2 percent cap or cut snow removal, road repair, public safety protection and other items that for most people are the only things they ever see for their tax dollars.
All of this has made Republicans around the state scratch their heads and ask what a GOP Governor has done to build the party, and why few scratch their heads when they see so few local party officials defending the embattled Governor/
It’s not the only reason why so many have been silent but it’s certainly the biggest reason.