The redistricting amendment is dead (for now) but N.J. democracy is still on the ropes

By Matt Rooney
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That’s all for now, Save Jerseyans.

The Democrat legislative leadership’s efforts to reconfigure New Jersey’s districts according to an in-name-only “fairness” standard hit a brick wall and is back on the shelf for now. Republicans complained, sure, but it was far-left groups aligned with Governor Phil Murphy (the Democrat governor would’ve played a diminished role in the redistricting process had the antagonistic Democrat legislative leadership succeeded in getting the measure in front of voters for a referendum) who deserve full credit for killing the measure. They applied pressure to Democrats who feared primaries from the “Blue Wave” base if they supported Sweeney over Murphy.

So yeah, all of this altruistic “fight for democracy” activism we’ve seen and heard from Murphy allies over the past couple of weeks is a little more complicated than the meets the eye.

But a win’s a win, right?

Woo-hoo! Democracy in the Garden State is saved!

Not really.

New Jersey’s opposition party (the GOP) will seriously compete for four (maybe 6 or 8 if they’re REALLY lucky) Democrat-held Assembly seats next fall when all of the lower chamber’s 80 members are up. The Republicans only hold 26 seats as it is, and somewhere between 6-10 of those Republican-held are considered seriously in peril including LD21 where the Assembly Minority Leader is on the ballot.

It’s a similar story in the State Senate where the GOP controls only 15 of 40 seats.

Outside of maybe LD1 (where Congressman-elect Van Drew ran for years as a faux moderate)? There are precious few places where Republicans are competitive on the current map and yes, this challenge PRECEDED what looks like at least a partial Trumpian suburban realignment to the Left. I’m referring to places where the GOP ought to win based on party registration/the numbers alone. They don’t exist. In Central Jersey’s suburban LD16, where the party lost two Assembly seats in recent cycles despite many, many years of GOP control, is now more than a 1/3 Democratic and less than 1/4 Republicans by registration. Republicans control a little better than ]1/3 of the seats in each state legislative chamber, under-performing their state-wide margins from 2017 and 2018 by at least 5-6 points.

Click here if you want a little more background on the absurdity of the present Alan Rosenthal map.

Let’s review:

(1) The redistricting amendment died because Murphy and his allies would’ve lost power in their endless-battle with the Sweeney/South Jersey Democrat faction; and

(2) Republicans still face a map where winning a majority of seats in either chamber is close to a numerical impossibility. 

New Jersey’s fiscal and economic challenges continue to mount. Plenty of people are thumping their chests this weekend, suggesting (perhaps ignorantly rather than maliciously in a few cases) that New Jerseyans will now find a REAL choice in their voting booths during next fall’s legislative general elections. An opportunity for candidates and ideas to compete on relatively even ground, and for self-styled “progressive” Democrats to win fair-and-square.

They’d be wrong.

The two party system in this state is illusory. Has been for some time. Judging by the growth of debt, taxes, and assorted other problems plaguing New Jersey? Only the most partisanship-blinded hack could argue, straight-faced, that that’s a good thing.

Much like the redistricting amendment’s deceptively named “fairness” standard? “Democratic” New Jersey remains anything but.

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