By Patrick Torpey
I met Tom Bonier in the 2000 legislative redistricting process when he played the same consulting role he did in the 2010 redistricting cycle for the N.J. Democrats. Tom is a man of great skill and intellect and played an important part in selling Larry Bartels on the non-responsive iron-clad Democratic Legislative map of the last decade. For this partisan spin master, truly a job well done. And he beat me, one of the GOP consultants in that process.
But talk about a sore loser. Tom’s recent comments on the Congressional Map crossed the line from political analysis and went into a personal attack on Dean John Farmer. Most readers of this site know that Dean Farmer is non-partisan to a fault, a registered independent and no fan of ultra-conservative Tea Party ideologues. His many articles as a columnist for the Star-Ledger indicate this. John is one of the most well respected and fair people on the N.J. political scene as evidenced by his unanimous choice as the tiebreaker.
Tom is used to dealing with the academic elite who sit in their ivory towers to make political judgments on the “science” of redistricting. I recall Professor Bartels saying he never even voted, therefore he was unbiased in his deliberations as the tiebreaking member a decade ago. Priceless.
Dean Farmer used something as a basis for his decision-making that Tom Bonier was unfamiliar with: common sense. Dean Farmer consolidated districts in the part of the state that lost the most population. Tough for the academics to understand, I realize.
Tom cannot grasp this single fact: He lost on the merits!
The GOP map was significantly more compact, competitive and reflective of communities of interest.
The GOP map offered 9 districts that the Democrats could win. The Democrat map offered only 6 the GOP could win, if they were lucky. The demographics of District 2 are Democratic. In fact President Obama handily won this district. Republican Frank LoBiondo is rewarded by voters for the fine job he does. Should Congressman LoBiondo not run for re-election this seat is a Democrat seat.
The demographics of District 3 are right down the middle, a “fair fight” by most calculations. Initial results indicate President Obama slightly ahead in this district. However, the Democrats ran a terrible campaign this year and their candidate proved to be not ready for prime time. This seat will remain competitive by the numbers for the next 10 years.
That brings us to District 5. Note that Congressman Scott Garrett, the one true GOP Tea Party member, was put in a district with a well-healed incumbent Democrat. I have heard the rumor of a Democrat poll that showed Congressman Rothman beating Congressman Garrett. We will never know. Too bad for Tom Bonier that Steve Rothman decided to start a civil war within the Democrat Party and challenge Bill Pascrell instead. This is another “fair fight” the Democrats could have had if Congressman Rothman stayed the course.
So let’s summarize. President Obama won New Jersey with 58% of the vote. The President handily won 58% (7 of 12 including CD 2) of the Congressional Districts and it looks like the President won 67% (8 of 12 including CD 2 and CD 3) of our Congressional Districts. Furthermore, the most well-funded Democrat incumbent Congressman shied away from a legitimate challenge to New Jersey’s Tea Party standard bearer and instead forced a primary with a fellow Democrat.
Tom’s political spin regarding the Tea Party falls flat on its face. Also Tom’s charge that “Farmer discriminated against northern New Jersey” is the first time I have heard that one. Do our friends in South Jersey really believe North Jersey doesn’t get its fair share?
Mr. Bonier can make his case for why Dean Farmer’s decision is flawed. The implication that his decision was to protect the Tea Party or payback for Legislative redistricting is baseless, insulting and below him.
I know you are used to winning Tom, but you lost this one on the merits.
Patrick Torpey is former executive director of the Assembly Republican Majority (ARM) and GOP consultant to the 2000 GOP redistricting team. He is currently a partner with the Trento- based lobbying firm 1868 Public Affairs.