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New Jersey Offers A Perfect Snapshot of the National Midterm Elections

Bookmark and Share    When it comes to New Jersey, the existing congressional district lines seem to make the results of the upcoming midterm elections fairly static in the state. Of the 13 congressional seats that New Jersey sends to Washington, D.C., five are held by Republican and eight are held by Democrats. That 5 to 8 ratio is actually exceptionally well balanced  when compared to other states in the region like Connecticut, New York, Maryland, or Massachusetts. For the most part, despite the anti-incumbent, anti-Democrat sentiment that exists, most of New Jersey’s representatives are on ground that is relatively more solid than some of their other counterparts nationwide.

But New Jersey Democrats are not feeling very comfortable. In fact many are worried. Some more than others.

Some Republicans may also find themselves having a harder time than usual. Leonard Lance, Chris Smith and Frank LoBiondo may face primary challengers after they went and voted for the extreme liberal tax scheme known as Cap-and-Trade. Having declined my own opportunity to challenge my Congressman, Chris Smith, I do know that a challenge to his nomination is being quite seriously contemplated. The same may apply to LoBiondo and Lance. As three of the only eight Republicans in Congress to support Cap-and-Trade, many Republicans feel that we need nominees that better reflect our belief in limited government, less spending and state rights. Voting for Cap-and-Trade was as removed from those principles as one could get.

However, it is not likely that those challenges will be successful.

Smith, LoBiondo and even Lance, a congressional freshman, have a strong following and oodles of dough that will allow them to buy their nomination come the June 8th primary. And that is all they really need, because in their districts, the Republican nomination is normally tantamount to victory in the general election.

The same goes for most of the Democrats in the Garden’s State’s congressional delegation. But none of them are totally confident under this anti-incumbent environment that seems to be hurting Democrats much more than Republicans. Three Democrats are especially concerned………Frank Pallone, John Adler, and Rush Holt.

Pallone’s district is heavily Democratic and he has more campaign cash on hand than any other Congressman…………..$4 million. Pallone is strong in his Central New Jersey district, but as we have seen, the strength that Democrats have normally been able to count on is not there these days. Pallone’s district also produced unusually large pluralities for a Republican when they overwhelmingly supported Chris Christie for Governor over Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine. So he could be in trouble, especially if a decent and aggressive Republican candidate who can tap into the money needed to compete with Pallone materializes. And that candidate might have arrived.

Congressman Pallone has never faced a challenger who could be defined as a serious threat. But that could be different this time.

The millionaire publisher of New Jersey’s  Two River Times newspapaer, Diane Gooch,  is said to be willing to run and invest 2 million of her own money into her race and raise the rest through donations. If that’s true, Pallone could be, at the very least, in  the race of his life. And no one deserves a good challenge more than him.

Pallone is one of the most vocal liberal legislators in the state. He supports anything and everything liberal and when it comes to economic policy, Frank Pallone does nothing but vote for pork and any measure that will spend taxpayer money. Frank Pallone is of the school of hought that believes when we are going through good economic times, it is the federal government’s moral obligation to spend. But on the flipside,when we are going through tough economic times, Frank Pallone is of the school of thought that believes we have to spend our way out of those bad times. In other words, Pallone’s answer to everything is spend, spend and spend more……..accept for when it concerns securing our nation’s borders or our military capabilities. That is where he supports spending cuts.

It is with this fire for spending that Pallone hopes to someday soon run for statewide office, more specifically the US Senate. So it would be nice to see him be taken out now, while he is in the lower house. If Diane Gooch does decide to run, she may be the one to do it.

My suggestion is, if she is serious about winning the office, Gooch should make it a two cycle campaign. 

Diane Gooch is unknown and this first time out will really just allow her to get some of the name recognition that Pallone already has. So if Diane Gooch runs hard, gets known and makes this a real close race, she will have made a name for herself and in two years, when Republicans have a strong presidential nominee at the top of the ticket, she can run again and in that race, she will probably put Pallone out of our misery.

Even more fertile territory for Republicans is another district that runs from portions of South Central Jersey and into sections of South Jersey. That seat is held by John Adler, a freshman elected in the Obama landslide of ‘08. The district is a Republican one. Prior to Adler, it was held by Republicans for over a decade, but the incumbent GOP congressman retired and in this open seat, the Republican nominee fumbled while Adler ran a relatively smooth campaign. The combination of the two, combined with the Obama wave, swept Adler in. But the tide has tuned and John Adler is facing a short lived Congressional career.

To make matters worse for Adler, his likely opponent will be a former Philadelphia Eagles football player, Jon Runyon. For a South JerseyJohn Adler district that is heavily influenced by Philadelphia, there are few things better than the ability to appeal to the legions of loyal Eagles fans who will gladly vote for you over the Congressman whose name most of them do not know. For all these reasons, it is safe to say that John Adler is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the nation and probably one of the many that will go down in November.

The other of the most competitive races pit’s a popular conservative Central New Jersey Mayor against a six term incumbent Democrat whose greatest claim to fame is that he lays low. Holt is the champion of nothing other than supporting innocuous, feel good legislation and quietly casting his lot with liberals on every hot button issue. From the government takeover of healthcare to Cap-and-Trade, Rush Holt is there. But while Rush Holt has Nancy Pelosi’s back, voters in his district are wondering who has their back?

Answering that question is Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre.

Halfacre is a conservative leader who brings to the table much more than any past challengers of  Holt.

Articulate, believable, experienced, energetic and accomplished, Mike Halfacre, is the type of leader that people want to see representing them in Washington. Republicans see Halfacre as principled but pragmatic, reliable and respectable. Tea Party enthusiasts find Mayor Halfacre’s record exemplary and promising. They see a leader who has streamlined government and reduce debt all while lowering taxes. His Administration reduced Fair Haven’s debt burden by selling off unused property, saved the Borough $100,000 by consolidating the office of Borough Engineer with Department of Public Works.

Those and other belt tightening measures allowed Mike Halfacre to reduce property taxes in Fair Haven for the first time in decades and still abide by the wishes of voters who saw the need for a Recreation Director. Mayor Halfacre was then able to increase Borough programs for children and seniors while paying the salary of the full-time Recreation Director through fees paid on new programs. Not by taxpayers.

In other words, Tea Part protestors have no reason to protest Mike Halfacre. He is the type of leader that believes that government must get out of the way and not be a burden to the people, but rather an asset.

All of this is in stark contrast to Rush Holt who has never seen a government program unworthy of funding and never seen an issue or problem that didn’t need a new government program to fund.

Altogether, the three races highlighted here are typical for the 80 to 90 congressional seats that, nationally, the Republican Party will be assisting to wage the most aggressive campaigns in. They are seats occupied by Democrats who, with the right push, can be taken down quicker than a grass hut in a hurricane. And in New Jersey candidates like Mayor Mike Halfacre are the “right push” we need.

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THE REAL REPUBLICAN DEBATE

After licking our wounds from this past election, the blogosphere is packed with suggestions and commentary regarding how to rebuild the Republican party. Many Republican activists and enthusiasts are debating who will be the face of our party as we go forward. At times I too have been eager to want to put forward a name that best represents us, but doing so does not help us establish the solid foundation that we need to build upon.
Louisiana Governor bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor bobby Jindal

Aside from the race for leadership of the party, activists are caught up in a struggle over who is next, who is going to be our candidate for President and who we must rely upon to deliver our message and carry us forward? There are those who are demanding that we pin our hopes on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, while others debate the future of Sarah Palin or other party figures like Romney and Huckabee.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

I have an appreciation for all of the above mentioned named people but I have an even greater appreciation for what my party stands for regardless of the name of who we discuss and there in lies what the real debate should be about.

Former Governor Mitt Romney

Former Governor Mitt Romney

We, as a party, need to be less concerned with the face of the party and more concerned with the heart of the party. We need to reestablish that which was the source of our political preeminence beginning with the ‘94 Republican revolution and the ending of its dominance which culminated in the 2006 elections when we lost control of the senate and house.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee

Former Governor Mike Huckabee

The 1994 Republican revolution ushered in 73 new Republican House members and 11 new Republican Senators. The largess of that freshmen class of Republicans influenced the leadership of congress with the “power to the people” sentiments that they brought to government. It was a sentiment that believed, as elected officials, they needed to make sacrifices for the people and live by the same rules that they created for the people.

This meant getting rid of special privileges and reversing the practices that allowed members of congress to abuse power. It also meant a strong adherence to conservative fiscal, foreign and law and order policies. Many in this class quickly became a part of a new informal group dubbed “New Federalists” and set an agenda of widespread U.S. government cuts in many departments and also intended on privatizing, localizing, consolidating and even , eliminating many departments and agencies. This federalist direction was part of their success.

At least up until 2002.

In my estimation our fall from power as a party came about not due to what we stand for but due to a lack of attention to coordinated efforts in clearly defining what we stand for and a backing away from those intentions.

After winning the White House in 2000, with total control of all three branches of federal government, many of our elected officials became complacent. With that White House win also came the loss of the “power to the people” spirit that ushered in our majorities in 1994.

Former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough

Former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough

After winning the presidency, many of those who were a part of that ’94 federalist style, freshmen class slowly left office. Many of them believed in term limits and felt, that in truth to their beliefs, they must step aside and move on. So by 2002, gone were many of the freshmen of the ‘94 GOP revolution. Gone were the strong federalist tendencies of John Kasich , J.C. Watts, Joe Scarborough and their like. And with them, the “power to the power” legislation and message slowly departed as well.

Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts

Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts

Slowly, congressional Republicans became complacent with their power. Slowly they lost touch with the people and lost their message. In 2004, the effects of this loss of spirit were not dramatically pronounced. Republicans maintained what power they had, including the White House, but the erosion was beginning. By 2006 it had set in. Our federalist influences were gone and so was our power.

And that is what we must get back in order to regain power. The “power to the people” message and federalist intentions which defined the ‘94 freshman Republican class was what helped to bring us to power.

In 1994 we did not win simply because we were not Democrats. We won because of the anti-establishmentarian mentality that we represented. We were also able to point fingers of blame at Democrats who controlled the establishment. We were able to point to the pay raises and special privileges that Democrats afforded the governing class while offering only a lack of attention to the needs of the people that democrat policies seemingly overlooked.

But by 2006 it became clear to the people that we were the establishment and that we were not responsive to their needs. By 2008 an exclamation mark was added to that sentiment.

So here we are today, wondering how to gain back our majority status.

Many are trying to achieve that goal by appointing one name or another as the name that will propel us back into power. Yet, the truth is that no one name will restore faith in our party.

We can fondly mention the Reagan name and we can offer up Mitt Romney as a the new bearer of the Reagan torch or Sarah Palin as the Republican savior and Bobby Jindal as the leader of the next revolution but no matter what name may be put forth, it is the what our party stands for that is more important than who represents it.

So I propose that we stop linking our fortunes to any one figure and start clearly defining our party. Not redefining it, but clarifying it’s definition.

Doing that requires those Republicans who still remain in office to get back on message and adopt a stronger adherence to federalist tendencies in their legislative initiatives and voting records.

Beyond generalities, that means controlling spending and maintaining an aggressive posture with those foreign elements whom threaten our security and would weaken the threads of freedoms delicate fabric. It means reducing the size of a costly and inefficient government and the bureaucracy that makes government inefficient.

Under the auspices of Homeland Security, Republicans, during the Bush administration, have tried to excuse away budget deficits. Although Homeland Security did account for one of the largest reorganizations of federal government in our history, it did not create an excuse for avoiding budget cuts in other areas or streamlining departments and cutting waste.

In light of this, we must create a legislative agenda that reflects our political ideology. For too long the G.O.P. has been overshadowed by the War on Terror. That effort must not be diminished nor should any focus be taken away from it. However; our efforts must simultaneously embark upon the same domestic agenda that brought us to power in the mid ‘90’s and that we lost track of during the security agenda of this current decade.

Former Ohio Rep. and Future Ohio Governor John Kasich

Former Ohio Rep. and Future Ohio Governor John Kasich

So put aside the name of your favorite potential Republican nominee four years from now. Focus on the clarity of our message and how best to shape that message. Let the great work of Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin, as a governors, speak for themselves and see what it shall bring. Let people like former congressman John Kasich reemerge on the frontlines of the political battlefield as he throws his hat in the ring for Governor of Ohio. Let the candidacies of the best and brightest develop as we help to recapture the spirit and agenda which brought us to power but strayed away from.

Through that agenda, the best of our leaders will emerge and victory will again be ours.

 

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“The IRS announced that obese Americans are entitled to certain tax breaks.

Apparently, under the new rules, you’re allowed to claim two or more chins as dependents.”

~Conan O’Brien

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THE NEXT 2 YEARS COULD BE CRITICAL FOR REPUBLICANS

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The GOP is literally at a make or break point that could a establish a fait accompli   

As we enter into the closing year of the new millennium’s first decade, the approaching official national census process is where some, if not a large portion of the battle for our political future will take place.

After the census has been taken in 2010, every legislative district from which we elect council members in local and city governments to state legislators and members of congress will be redrawn based upon the population shifts determined by the census.

This means that once those figures have been established, during 2010, state legislatures will spend the following year redrawing new legislative districts.

Despite laws that try to regulate how legislative maps can be drawn and try to eliminate gerrymandering, redistricting is primarily a political process that is left up to the political party or parties with majority control at the time that redistricting occurs. That said, the powers that be use their majority status to creatively draw new legislative districts that favor their party. A handful of states have separatecommissions that draw the district lines.  Some of those grant veto to the states governors and some don’t.  But regardless, even those commissions, involved in those 6 or states, contain a degree of politcal leanings.

In either event, by using a range of election results from over the last 8 years or so, party leaders establish where their favorable votes come from. Using that as their basis, they draw districts that contain a plurality of population centers that favor their party.

This allows the majority political party to substantially consolidate power by creating new election districts that are likely to send more of their kind to their county seats and state capitols as well as those who we send to congress.

Regardless of the laws that are designed to take political influence out of the redistricting process and despite the various state redistricting commissions that are set up to oversee the process, it is an entirely political process. You must understand that the politicians create the new districts maps themselves or appoint the redistricting commissions regulating the process. Even when the courts have to step in, it remains a political process…….Who appoints the judges that make the rulings on this type of stuff?…..The politicians. So no matter what, it is a fact that the redistricting process is a political process. To pretend it isn’t, is a demonstration of naiveté that should prohibit one from even discussing politics. The only arguable point may be the varying degree of politicization that the process holds for one state or another.

Keeping that in mind, in one sense the census will, or could benefit, Republicans on the national level.  Having the majority in various state legislatures is key though. 

Areas such as the Northeast will see a decreased sizes in population. That will result in several Northeastern states losing congressional seats. The region has practically no congressional Republicans left. Connecticut’s Chris Shays was one of the last few holdouts and his overreaching attempts to appeal to  Democrat by essentially voting like a Democrat didn’t hack it. Republicans did not like his trying to be a liberal and liberals did not find him liberal enough so he’s out.

But the loss of seats through redistricting in the Northeast, where Republicans don’t have many seats, will favor Republicans where they are still strong….the South and West.

The census will show a strong increase in Southern population and so will the West. That means the representation lost in places like New Jersey and New York will be added to places like Florida and California, where the increased population will get increased representation. Except for California that bodes well for Republicans, but not in and of itself.

The party in power of each individual state legislature will ultimately determine the final redistricting maps. The party in charge at the time will create new districts that favor themselves and increases their own pluralities in their state capitol. They will do the same with their own states congressional delegation to washington, DC, as they draw congressional districts that favor their party as well.

So that means, if, for example, New Jersey has A Democrat Governor and a Democrat majority in the state senate and the state assembly, which they do now, Democrats will make their existing state legislative districts more favorable to electing Democrats. They will also draw congressional districts that are inclined to do the same. In fact, with the possible loss of one seat due to relatively decreased population growth, the Democrat dominated state legislature would probably emaciate one of the rare congressional districts that Republicans have held, forever, in Northern New Jersey. In the recent 2008 election, incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Fergusson retired and his seat was won by a Republican state senator named Leonard Lance. After redistricting, he and his seat will probably be gerrymandered out of existence.

This all points to the following .

  • The GOP Must Act Quickly

We need to select a Republican National Chairman who has a vision of inclusiveness and a passionate command of the issues and ideological fervor that is rooted in the conservative foundation that has always been the basis of our most productive legislative sessions and our most successful election cycles. That person must also have the capacity for exceptional organizational development and cutting edge thinking that can exploit the internet and the grassroots. The new chairman must also be willing to act quickly and accept the fact that we need to prepare for the redistricting process that begins in 2010.  Any loss of time leading up to 2010 will wreak havoc on our prospects for the decade to follow. (Newt…..are you reading this?)

  • A Bottom Up Strategy

The new Republican National Committee Chairman must immediately focus on and direct all resources to local and state legislative elections. This may sound out of place for the “national” committee, however, by the time the end of 2010 rolls around, it is the state level which will strongly effect our national prospects in the redistricting process that occurs at the start of the next decade.  By electing more officials on the bottom of the ballot, in stste elections, we will be better able to effect races further up the ballot.

By spending the next two years establishing strong candidates to run strong campaigns for state senate and assembly seats, we will increase control of the state legislative bodies that are ultimately responsible for the redistricting that they will undertake after the 2010 census results. With that power and opportunity we will be able to draw new congressional districts that are favorable for increasing Republican pluralities in the newly drawn seats that will be up for grabs in 2012.

Without control of the redistricting process Democrats will have the opportunity to gerrymander more Republicans out of office and make it even harder to get elected into office . That will only make the decade to come more difficult for us to increase our state legislative and congressional prospects.

The new chairman of the RNC, whoever it may be, better be willing to utilize the little time we have between now and then wisely. The once every decade redistricting process that the new chairman should prepare us for could have more of an effect on GOP prospects and our regaining majority status in congress than any of the elections that will follow

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GOOD ANSWERS

I guess I would have voted with the majority if it was a close vote. But I agree with the arguments the minority made.
–President Bill Clinton, on the 1991 Gulf War resolution

“I’m not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president.”
–Hillary Clinton commenting on the release of subpoenaed documents

I haven’t committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.
–David Dinkins, New York City Mayor, answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes.

Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.
–Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower

The streets are safe in Philadelphia. It’s only the people who make them unsafe.
–Frank Rizzo, ex-police chief and mayor of Philadelphia

I have lied in good faith.
— Bernard Tapie, French politician accused of fixing a soccar match involving the team he owned, when his sworn alibi fell apart in court.

I don’t need bodyguards.
–Jimmy Hoffa, labor leader

Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
–Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC

The police are not here to create disorder. They’re here to preserve disorder.”
–Former Chicago mayor Daley during the infamous 1968 Democratic Party convention

China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese.
–Former French President Charles de Gaulle

 

 

 

 

 

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