By David Cruz
New Jersey lawmakers were going about their usual Thursday business today, meeting in their respective committees and greetings lobbyists and members of various special interest groups. But the political shock-waves that accompanied the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor were very much on the minds of Republican lawmakers.
While across the country, pundits are reading the tea leaves to try to find some deep meaning in the Cantor loss, in New Jersey, Republicans say the answers are pretty fundamental.
“Representatives who don’t spend a lot of time in their district, who don’t pay attention to their constituents needs are sometimes replaced by the very constituents who sent them there in the first place,” said Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber, “so I think there’s a very important lesson for everyone to learn here in New Jersey.”
It was a Democrat who originally said all politics is local but the lesson cuts across party lines and – say the Jersey Republicans we talked to today – had more to do with Cantor’s failure to cover home base than any Tea Party insurgency.
“The cautionary tale is – whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican – if you’re in leadership, you’re responsible for the how the government is treating the average person, and that’s the cautionary tale,” added Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick. “I don’t think it’s Republican or Democrat; I think it has to do with frustration of people with their government.”
But economics professor Dave Brat – the surprise winner – wasn’t a Tea Party candidate, per se, says the leader of the Bayshore Tea Party Group, who still thinks establishment Republicans in New Jersey need to take notice.
“To say he was a Tea Party candidate, no he was not,” said Barbara Gonzalez, founder of the Bayshore Tea Party. “You didn’t see national Tea Party groups funding him. I think it was more his platform, what he stood for, more than being a Tea Party candidate and I would also say that it’s more of an anti-establishment movement that’s going on now.”
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi took to Facebook to express her shock at the Cantor defeat, and inspired a spirited thread. She doesn’t think Cantor’s defeat was especially focused on philosophy.
“i don’t think it’s necessarily Tea party versus establishment,” she said. “I think in his district the immigration reform issue may have come into play but if that was a core thing that was driving it, speaker Boehner, Lindsay Graham both easily won their primaries and their both more aggressive in pushing that initiative than even Cantor was. I think everything is local.”
Republicans in New Jersey tend to be more moderate but there are elements within the party that trend to the right, like Webber, who says New Jersey’s GOP would be wise to chart a course that relies less on currying favor with Democrats and more on basic customer service