Winners and Losers: Post-Election Edition

WINNERS

George Norcross and South Jersey Democrats

Pre-election, same-party antagonists worried about a stepped-up South Jersey metastasization of the Assembly caucus and prayed for a diminished Norcross contingent in time for re-organization tomorrow. It didn’t happen. Not only did SJ protect all of its long-standing brand names, but solidified a win for rising star Troy Singleton in LD7, who drove big numbers out of Willingboro and whose candidacy commanded a considerable amount of the organization’s attention and resources.

New Jersey’s resident Democratic Party dark lord also added another slug to his chamber last night as his delegation gained a seat in LD 4 with the victory of Gabriela Mosquera. 

Some Democrats re-elected to the Legislature last night might have gone home and cried with thoughts about the future of their party. But they weren’t Norcross Democrats.

Lou Stellato and Bergen County Dems

The former mayor of Lyndhurst took charge of a seemingly doomed Bergen County Democratic Organization (BCDO) and promptly changed the name to the Bergen County Democratic Committee, producing no end of Bergen bally laughs. A symbolic name change would hardly deter the death throes of Joe Ferriero’s empire.

Stellato told PolitickerNJ.com he needed to restore Democratic Party credibility and the only way to do that was to win.

He won last night. Big. The lifelong political animal and Hubert Humphrey acolyte swept county races and protected state Sen. Bob Gordon’s re-election.

The result upped the credit of consultant Adam Silverstein and transformed Stellato, the South Bergen street fighter – into a powerful state player.

Bob Menendez

The U.S. senator has quietly fumed in observation of a Democratic Party that on the key issues seems too willing, in Menendez’s judgment, to cut deals with Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Last Thursday night at a Democratic Party fundraising dinner in Montclair, the Hudson tough guy walked to the microphone and told those in attendance that he was tired of the “Christie-crats.” Heading into a 2012 re-election year, Menendez’s closest allies have organizational worries, especially regarding South Jersey and Essex County’s Joe DiVincenzo – two entities close to Christie.

With the Democrats’ resounding wins in a key county last night, slightly to the west of ground zero of his base, Menendez can today claim some Bergen mojo and use that as a starting point to address any organizational disrepair elsewhere.

Steve Sweeney

He had a closer than expected win in his race, but does anyone care?

He played a critical organizational role in helping to re-elect state Sen. Bob Gordon and state Sen. Jim Whelan.

The Senate President, moreover, has no worries about landing a second, two-year term as leader of his caucus, appears comfortably positioned to nudge nagging critic Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-18) out of her chair of power, and can savor one of his famous campaign account cigars in celebration of holding onto a freeholder majority in his home county of Gloucester.

Bob Gordon

Throughout the campaign, the 38th District senator’s name wouldn’t come up in conversation without muttered mention of his egg-headed encumbrances. “This is a guy who walks around quoting the Federalist Papers,” groaned an insider, who doubted Gordon’s ability to connect with voters and pull out a win in the state’s biggest battleground district. “He actually studies every bill,” said another colleague, also dismissing Gordon’s shot at re-election in a reconfigured 38th. But the little policy wonk that could pulled out a win last night – 52-48% – while making his own understated and yes – educated – point that projecting the ability to be a bar stool chum isn’t the only qualification remaining to be elected in American politics.  

Jim Whelan

In a $5 million contest, the former mayor of Atlantic City walked through general election Republican opponent Vince Polisitina to notch a convincing 8% win in one of the state’s two most watched races. The Norcross stable member’s victory in LD 2 delighted the South Jersey party boss too in a race that experts called early as a Norcross versus Christie arm wrestle for frontline influence with the casinos. 

Michael Muller

Snug in the knowedge that party paycheck voters would vote in self interest, the cunning Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC) Executive Director kept total voter apathy from setting in as he kept the women’s healthcare funding and other red meat Democratic issues alive for his party.

Derek Roseman

The smart and steady Senate Majority Office operative did an impressive job of dealing information and staying intimately wired to the state’s most competitive races. In the worst weather of campaigns, Roseman was courteous, knowledgeable and instantaneously accessible.

Paul Sarlo

An aggressive public presence but ginger-footed backroom dealer, the Senate budget chair stands in a good place to go after the Senate presidency in two years when Sweeney exits and imminent Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-8) graduates to the speakership. Sarlo helped Gordon get re-elected and owns a brash footprint in the new Bergen County.

Dick Codey

Left for carrion birds on the double yellow line between Essex and Morris counties after redistricting, the former acting governor delighted in grabbing headlines again as the never-say-die Tip O’Neill of New Jersey, flattening his opponent with his opponent’s own party.

Patrick Murray

Just as he did with redistricting, the cold-eyed political scientist and pollster from Monmouth University a week before Election Day stuck the landing on last night’s political news “event.”

From his Nov. 1 column on PolitickerNJ.com…

“Actually very few New Jerseyans will go to the polls seven days from now.  Statewide registered voter turnout will fall below 30% for the first time since records have been kept. So many seats are considered a lock that many incumbents won’t even demonstrate a minimal level of respect for voters by answering the media’s candidate questionnaires. Considering how irrelevant voters are to the process I have decided to save us all the effort and announce the winning margins for all 120 legislative seats a week ahead of the election.”

Linda Greenstein

Don’t mess with her. That’s the message from the 14th District fireplug sitting in the upper chamber. Most insiders say plumber/pipefitter Richard Kanka was a more dangerous GOP challenger than last year’s Greenstein victim Tom Goodwin. So the perpetually campaign-trail agitated Greenstein produced a bigger victory. Goodwin at least ended the night a year ago in possession of more votes than Greenstein in his home town of Hamilton. Now officially the state’s most battle-tested state senator in representation of the bellwether 14th, Greenstein won last night by beating the Hamilton-based Kanka on his home soil.

Not unnoticed was the performance of her running mate, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo of Hamilton, who outpaced all other legislative candidates in LD 14 this year, including Sen Greenstein by more than 400 votes (rough count:  DeAngelo  26,542; Greenstein 26,111,  Benson  25, 584).

John Wisniewski

His enemies in the party detest him for it. But he keeps winning. Last night was inarguably an extention of the Democrats’ redistricting victory, but it gave the state party chairman – long embattled in the politics of his hometown of Sayreville and the gutknife divisions of Middlesex – a chance to bask at another winning statewide podium.  

LOSERS

Chris Christie

All right, he didn’t pick up any seats in the Legislature, and it’s not as though Gabriela Mosquera is going to be the sudden superstar who slingshots CC.

The GOP strongman has stomped on majority Dems since the beginning of his tenure, pitted them against each other, and frozen them with fear in many cases.

He shows no signs of relenting.

Certainly Christie attached his name and face to numerous campaigns at all levels that went down in flames.

But more troubling for Christie are the losses by Republican candidates in Bergen County.

Democrats just check-pointed two years of GOP momentum there. They can crow about picking up a shiny South Jersey chess piece redundancy in this election and find few who will give them anything other than a good soundbite win.

But the Dems’ wins in Bergen signify  a wound for this governor. Republicans talked a ton of smack up there, with key inner circle sources calling a clear cut win for the GOP county candidates and jeering at a toppled Bergen County Democratic Committee.

In the end, a GOP that has thrived on divide and conquer tactics looked more divided in critical political building block Bergen.   

The State GOP Committee

When you call the place you have to put the phone down while a fingernails-on-chalkboard Ronald Reagan recording strains to land a convert. Nothing to do with Reagan or his policies or the Republicans’ affections for him, but the blaring, Olympus-sized voice sounds like an eight track tape from hell that was already old in 1980.

Add to that invisible State Party Chairman Sam Raia, who apparently burrowed deeper underground than usual, and the Democrats stood out organizationally by stark contrast.

Tom Kean and Alex DeCroce

This was the first time both the senate minority leader and assembly minority leader received full funding – and the campaign efforts of both fizzled dismally. Both GOP leaders have fewer caucus members now than when they took over.

Joe Cryan

The Assembly Majority Leader had some political junkies already popping popcorn in anticipation of his landing the speaker’s job and going head to head with Gov. Chris Christie. But Cryan had to get through George Norcross III first and couldn’t manage it, as the Han Solo of the left tried a frontal assault on the South Jersey Death Star and just as quickly got vaporized.

Bob Yudin

The Bergen County Republican Organization chairman suffered his first significant general election loss in two years.

Lorenzo Langford

He nursed a longstanding hostility toward Jim Whelan, the man he beat to become mayor of Atlantic City nearly a decade ago. In an attempt to destroy Whelan, the Democratic mayor joined the GOP campaign of Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-2) and tried to make as much intra-party mischief as he could. It backfired. Polls showed Langford with a low favorable rating in the second and Whelan backers said the association hurt the challenging assemblyman. “Can he expect retaliation?” veteran Press of Atlantic City reporter Derek Harper asked Whelan after the senator claimed victory. “I don’t know,” Whelan said.

Public Sector Unions

Beat up earlier this year by pension and benefits cuts, the unions won’t have a seat in leadership’s inner sanctum as Democrats who primarily backed the Christie-championed reforms prepare to give Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20) the heave-ho. They worked hard in key races, too, according to sources: most notably in LD 14 and in LD 38 and the Bergen Freeholer County race where respectively Assemblywoman Connie Wagner and Freeholder-elect Joan Voss offered motivation as professional educators.

The Democratic System

In a throwback gesture, the Republican challenger to Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik appeared at a polling place with his family and musicians playing brass instruments.

It was about the most festive as it got last night.

That candidate ended up losing, too, by the way.

Even at Whelan headquarters the mood at the “victory party” was downbeat as a crowd huddled in mourning over D losses in county races and the senator projected a solemn and solitary onstage presence.

The official numbers aren’t in yet, but the election cycle felt – in the words of one operative – as though people not employed in government or as political operatives – had simply given up on the process.

Monmouth University Political Scientist/Pollster Patrick Murray anticipated that last night would go down as the lowest turnout election in a generation.

Valerie Huttle

As part of the Cryan insurrection, the 37th District assemblywoman would have occupied a key leadership chair – maybe even speaker. But that collapsed when Norcross defused Cryan.

Gary Schaer

The smart and respected Passaic County Democratic assemblyman had the experience and financial expertise to land a leadership job on the Assembly Budget Committee, but Schaer and Passaic got boxed out by the Hudson-Essex-South Jersey deal.

Jason O’Donnell

Cryan asked O’Donnell to chase down the Hudson County votes the Assembly majority leader would require as a fireman’s carry to the speakership. New to the Legislature, the Bayonne-based assemblyman with razor-like political wits ended up getting chopped in half by state Sen. Nick Sacco (D-32), who rounded up those same votes for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) instead of Cryan.

Unhappy about being a casualty in the speaker war, O’Donnell nonetheless celebrated the impact of work of his that actually saved someone else’s life. O’Donnell was the lead sponsor of the law (A-3744/S-2752), the first of its kind to pass on a national scale, mandating pulse ox testing, a simple, non-invasive, low-cost measure to help detect the most common birth defect – congenital heart disease – in newborns. The law saved a Newton family’s newborn son born a day after the law took effect.

Mark Smith

The Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman stood stock still as Sacco ran down five out of six votes to rip control of the Hudson County delegation away from South Hudson and earn bragging rights as the unelected chair of the party.

Barbara Buono

The spirited Senate majority leader is headed for a fall tomorrow at the Democratic caucus’s reorganization meeting, the victim of fellow party leaders’ fatigue over her leftward-catering, Christie-hating mischief. Sources tell PolitickerNJ.com that the D Caucus will replace Buono with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37).

"Historically, the media has had two caricatures of Republicans. We are either stupid or evil."
—U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)