Besides the president, these are NJ’s must-watch races for election night
The expression “all politics are local” couldn’t be any truer in this year’s election.
While blue New Jersey is expected to give all 14 of its Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton, it’s the down-ballot races and statewide ballot questions that will provide the white-knuckle tension on Tuesday night.
Here’s a look at the races and contests we're watching. New Jersey 101.5 will have the results Tuesday night.
Ballot Question 2
The question seems like a no-brainer: dedicate the state’s new 23-cent gas tax to the Transportation Trust Fund so that money-grubbing politicians don’t raid and bankrupt the account again.
Not so fast!
Since last month when the state legislature and Gov. Chris Christie raised New Jersey’s gas tax, fierce opposition has revved up against this ballot question.
New Jersey 101.5’s Bill Spadea and his #VoteNoOnTwo campaign can take some credit for part of this resistance. It was on Spadea’s show that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno made the break from Christie by announcing her opposition to the ballot measure.
And the #VoteNoOnTwo position even crosses ideological boundaries: conservative Republican state Sen. Mike Doherty and progressive Democrat state Sen. Ray Lesniak went on Spadea’s show to give the question the thumbs down.
Opponents point out that while the question would indeed dedicate the gas tax funds, its passage also would trigger massive borrowing – ostensibly to fund major transportation projects. The ballot question would not guarantee that the borrowed funds would be used for their intended purpose, critics say. The borrowing is not mentioned in the text of the question on the ballot, but it's in the gas tax law.
Supporters of the ballot measure have gotten so worried that they’ve stepped up the campaign on the eve of the election to promote the "yes" vote.
- NJ lawmakers on gas-tax ballot question: Don’t trust us? Vote yes!
- Half of NJ’s new gas tax is being used to pay back old debt. Can state curb trend?
- Financial expert explains why you need to vote no on question 2 (Guest column)
- What happens to the funds if you vote no on NJ ballot question 2?
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Ballot Question 1
The other ballot question asks voters to permit the building of two casinos in North Jersey.
Casinos have only been allowed in Atlantic City since voters approved the 1976 ballot question.
Polls have shown that this year’s casino question will be overwhelmingly defeated. Proponents of the question stopped spending money on the campaign weeks ago.
Critics say allowing North Jersey casinos would pummel already struggling Atlantic City.
The ad campaign promoting a "no" vote is funded by New York casino interests that fear potential competition from Jersey City and the Meadowlands.
- North Jersey casino question may be dealt record-setting defeat
- Spending on casino ballot-question campaign smashes NJ record
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5th Congressional District
The only Garden State congressional race where a challenger has any shot of defeating the incumbent is in North Jersey’s 5th District, where conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett is facing Microsoft executive and former Hillary Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer.
Both candidates have raised and spent millions of dollars, with outside political action committees making additional campaign expenditures.
The district has been Republican for more than 80 years, but Democrats are hoping that Donald Trump will galvanize Democrats and independents to give Gottheimer an upset.
Gottheimer, running as a moderate Democrat who has distanced himself from Clinton on issues including taxes and the Iran nuclear deal, has a fundraising edge over Garrett, whose staunch conservative principles have sometimes proven controversial in New Jersey.
This year Garrett took heat for saying that his party should not support openly gay candidates.
Gottheimer has also tried to make political hay of Garrett’s votes against the Zadroga Act, a federal law providing health care for 9/11 responders. The bill was named after North Arlington resident James Zadroga, an NYPD officer who responded to Ground Zero and died in 2006 at age 34 with a respiratory illness. Garrett, however, did vote for the bill that eventually was signed into law.
Democrats have been unsuccessful at holding Garrett’s ideological stances against him in the past. Garrett defeated Roy Cho in 2014 with more than 55 percent of the vote and beat Adam Gussen in 2012 with 55 percent as well. Garrett has been in office since 2002 and serves on the Financial Services and Budget committees
- Fliers showing challenger as devil embroil bitter House race
- In lone debate, Garrett and Gottheimer call each other liars (Politico NJ)
One of the hottest local races — complete with TV ads and daily bombardments of mailings, none with no mention of Trump or Hillary — is in this sleepy Central Jersey county, where Republican Sheriff Frank Provenzano and Freeholder Patricia Walsh are facing the toughest fight of their long political careers.
Somerset County’s government is dominated by the GOP, but Democrats actually outnumber Republicans in voter registration.
In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the county since Lyndon Johnson. But in both of his elections, Obama's coattails weren’t long enough to knock out Republicans in countywide seats.
This year could be different.
The county already has seen a Republican state lawmaker knocked off her perch. Last year Democratic newcomer Andrew Zwicker defeated first-term Assemblywoman Donna Simon in the traditionally Republican 16th District. Are the county offices next?
This is another solidly red county that could turn a shade purple.
The Republican incumbent sheriff, surrogate and two freeholders are hoping that what happened to two GOP assemblywoman from their county last year doesn’t happen to them on Tuesday.
In one of the greatest upsets in last year’s election, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande were defeated by Democratic newcomers Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey in the county’s 11th District.
Both sides are spending heavily on the campaign this year.
- Accusations Fly at Monmouth Sheriff’s Debate (PolitickerNJ)
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.