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Experts, U. community react to state legislature election results

Last week, New Jersey held statewide legislative elections, and Democrats won enough seats to remain in control of both the State Senate and the Assembly.  – Photo by Lowlova / Wikimedia

Despite some high expectations for Republicans, New Jersey's Democratic Party prevailed in Tuesday's state elections, holding control of the State Senate and expanding their majority in the state's General Assembly.

On Wednesday, the Rutgers Eagleton Institute for Politics hosted a webinar panel titled "The Morning After: A post-election analysis of the New Jersey General Election," featuring several New Jersey-based journalists and strategists from both political parties.

Charles Stile, a columnist for the Bergen Record, said during the panel event that the issues the Republicans ran on did not resonate with voters.

"This is a really stunning defeat for the Republicans," he said. "They just ran on fear and anger, hoping that would cover the day, and ultimately, didn't attract enough voters and may have repelled some."

During the webinar, Colleen O'Dea, senior writer at NJ Spotlight News, said that in many competitive districts, Democrats came out on top.

She used several examples, including the election of Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11), who defeated his Republican opponent by 20 points when it was expected to be close. That race was the most expensive legislative election in this cycle, according to NJ Advance Media.

O'Dea also cited the victory of Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-16), who defeated former congressman Mike Pappas (R-N.J.). That election was expected to be close due to Republican-friendly redistricting, according to the New Jersey Monitor.

"I'm not sure what we were all wringing our hands over and wondering what's going to happen. Certainly, it was not the Republicans' night, as we expected," she said.

Joe Gindi, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and communications director for the Rutgers Democrats, told The Daily Targum he was pleasantly surprised with Tuesday's results. He also said he is proud of his organization's work in the past months.

"I genuinely do feel us hosting (Gopal) and also organizing a door-knocking campaign really does have an impact," he said.

Stacy Schuster, a Republican strategist and director of Women for a Stronger New Jersey, said during the Eagleton event that some victories in township elections were a silver lining for her party and that some successful candidates emphasized economic issues.

"We saw some really big wins and some bright spots at the local (and) county level," she said. "When you look at some of these local races that were successful, they focused on redevelopment, taxes (and) transparency. They highlighted a vision that they could accomplish and were disciplined in that message."

Jeremy Li, a Rutgers Business School junior and president of the Rutgers Republicans, said he believed his party's messaging was inadequate.

"We could have focused a little bit more on the economy going in (to the elections)," he said. "I don't think that we had a necessarily unified voice."

Li also said he is pleased with his party's performance on the local level, as it serves as a counter to the Democrats' control of the legislature. He said he hopes Republicans will promote mail-in voting in the future in order to increase turnout.

Arlene Quinones Perez, the chairwoman of the Hunterdon Democratic Committee, said voter turnout was approximately 23 percent for last Tuesday's election, meaning voters are not energized.

Stile said due to this lack of energy, he is unsure if Democratic victories will carry over to next year.

"I'm a little hesitant to suggest that the enthusiasm and the results of the Democrats here in New Jersey is going to translate into the same level for (President Joseph R. Biden Jr.) next year," he said. "I'm hesitant to say this is a triumphant moment for Biden."

Li said he is not confident in the Republican party's success going into the next election cycle.

"The 2020 (election cycle) was a disaster for Republicans. I think that things don't look very great for New Jersey (Republicans) going into 2024," he said.

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