By David Cruz
Well before Donald Trump took the stage to the theme song from the movie “Air Force One”, New Jersey had answered its most pressing questions, such as they were. The biggest race in the state — aside from the one at the top of the ticket — was in the fifth congressional district, where Democrat Josh Gottheimer was able to unseat seven-term Republican incumbent Scott Garrett.
“I’m actually very optimistic that, after all this, we’re going to come together,” said Gottheimer. “I think everybody in the country has had enough.”
Scott Garrett didn’t show at his headquarters last night. In recent days he had expressed frustration with the negative tone of the campaign, which he said distracted from issues.
“I am proud of the race we ran,” he said in a statement today. “We stayed the course and kept the faith. We are charged to pray for our nation’s leaders, and we are doing that now.”
Bergen Democrats were rejoicing in their sweep of county and local races, too, but made no mention of ballot question 1, which called for the expansion of casino gambling to two counties in the north. Bergen was one of them and business leaders here were eager to get in on the casino business. But voters had a different idea. Almost 80 percent of them rejected the idea last night.
“I believe voters voted their hearts and, in a way, it’s great for Atlantic City,” said Rummy Pandit, Executive Director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. “It’s going to follow the same model as Las Vegas. We’ve been somewhat gaming-centric but this gives us an opportunity in Atlantic City to focus on non-gaming aspects and Vegas has about two thirds of its revenue coming from non-gaming and currently Atlantic City is slowly but surely moving in that direction.”
Supporters say they may be back with a retooled question as early as next year.
Meanwhile, ballot question 2, which dedicated all of the new gas tax to transportation and infrastructure projects and made borrowing billions more possible, narrowly passed despite an aggressive last ditch effort against it by the lieutenant governor and others. Yes edged no, 52 percent to 48 percent.
“I think if we had another week, we could have defeated the question because I think the more people heard about it, the more they researched it, the more people looked into it understood and realized a no vote was the right vote,” said Sen. Kip Bateman. “I was disappointed it didn’t pass, but I was pleased that it got a lot closer than most people thought.”
Jersey Democrats say their focus now is on 2017, when they hope to elect their own Phil Murphy as the next governor. Trump’s victory could give Lt. Governor Guadagno an opportunity to run against Murphy as an incumbent if, as many expect, Chris Christie heads to Washington as part of a Trump administration.
“Elections have consequences” is a line the governor uses a lot. On this morning after, he’s proven to be quite right.