Democrats retain control of New Jersey Legislature

Democrats are expected to add five seats to their majority in the Assembly, hold a ten-seat lead in the Senate.

The New Jersey State House in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021

The New Jersey State House in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Democrats in New Jersey retained control of the Legislature and are expected to add five seats to their majority in the Assembly.

As of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, all but three Assembly races have been called by the Associated Press. One of those races is LD-3, which covers Salem and parts of Cumberland and Gloucester counties. Democrats Heather Simmons and Dave Bailey led the race. The AP called the Senate race for former Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who defeated incumbent Ed Durr in a closely watched race.

Former Senate President Steve Sweeney, who Durr defeated in 2021, celebrated the Democratic victories in his former district.

“Personally, I am particularly gratified to see my close friend and longtime colleague, John Burzichelli, elected to the Senate, accompanied by his running mates, Gloucester County Commissioner Heather Simmons and Dave Bailey Jr,” he said.

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Democrats swept LD-11, which covers part of Monmouth County. Incumbent Vin Gopal was re-elected handily to his Senate seat, defeating Republican challenger Stephen Dnistrian by 20%. Margie Donlon and Luanne Peterpaul were elected to the Assembly of Republican incumbents Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner.

Going into Tuesday’s election, Republicans were expected to cut into Democratic majorities in both chambers. The GOP hoped to even take the majority in one of the legislative chambers.

“[Republicans] felt like Democrats were on the defensive on Parental notification, on wind energy, on Orsted pulling out at the very last minute,” said Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “They really thought that they had control of this election and the Democrats were on the defensive.”

The results showed Tuesday night, according to political observers, Republicans were talking about the wrong things.

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“It seems that the Democratic message had a much stronger resonance with the voters than the culture issues that a lot of the Republican campaigns were using,” Ben Dworkin, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University.

While Republicans discussed  culture war issues, like parental rights in schools and dead whales, Democrats “in contrast” ran on affordability, according to Dworkin. Though, they also ran on abortion to motivate their base.

But at the end of the night, the economy ruled voters’ concerns.

[The Eagleton poll] showed us that voters in the end really cared about how much it costs to live,” Dworkin offered. “They were caring about pocketbook issues. And in this election, it would seem that the Democrats were much more focused on trying to talk about that than almost anything else.”

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