New Jersey election 2021 – winners and losers

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New Jersey election 2021 rainbow graphic

There were plenty of winners and losers from last week’s big election in NJ. Here are mine.

WINNERS

Don Guardian

The former mayor of Atlantic City ran a disciplined, message-driven campaign to win a seat in the New Jersey general assembly representing Atlantic County. That makes Don Guardian the first openly gay GOP state lawmaker in New Jersey history.

Don Guardian embodied toughness on the trail and (to me at least) looked a lot hungrier for the win. Guardian’s victory was emblematic of the dynamics which dominated New Jersey’s election this year: The New Jersey GOP  came ready to compete providing a sharp contrast to New Jersey Democrats who, for all their dominance over the years, demonstrated their lack of intestinal fortitude when the battle got really tight.

Assemblyman-elect Guardian’s victory is doubly impressive considering his own party’s dodgy track record on LGBTQ rights. This campaign season, GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli was perfectly happy to throw LGBTQ people under the bus to appease and energize the Trump crowd. Republicans have seized on transgender issues  to make LGBTQ people seem like a threat to your kids. But here’s the tea: Transgender children are 4x more likely to commit suicide and 5x more likely to be homeless than others in their age cohorts.

The LGBTQ community is trying to protect those kids. And not, as Jack would have you believe, teaching sodomy to elementary school kids.

But in the end, Don Guardian is going to Trenton and Jack isn’t, barely losing his race to become the governor of New Jersey. Who knows? Maybe, if Ciattarelli was better on LGBTQ rights, he’d be governor-elect right now.

Irony

When it comes to LGBTQ equality, the Democrats vote (much) better than the GOP. That said, New Jersey Democrats have an abysmal record getting LGBTQ people elected to office. For example, The much-vaunted, oft- hyped South Jersey Democratic machine has never once elected an (openly) LGBTQ person to higher office.

Don Guardian‘s smashing win in New Jersey’s second legislative district (see above) proves the viability of LGBTQs in NJ in 2021.

New Jersey Democrats, who’ve long treated the gay community like an ATM machine, should watch and learn.

Andrew Zwicker, Roy Freiman, and Sadaf Jaffer

Senator-elect Andrew Zwicker’s victory in NJ’s 16th legislative district gave NJ Democrats their most satisfying, unimpeachable victory of the week. Zwicker’s running mates Roy Freiman and Sadaf Jaffer also triumphed, completing a Democrat sweep in the same Somerset/Hunterdon-centic district once represented by Jack Ciattarelli, the GOP candidate for Governor.

So despite outperforming expectations elsewhere, there were no coattails for Jack from the voters who know him best.

Phil Murphy

Hear me out.

It’s been a long time since a Democrat was re-elected Governor of NJ (Brendan Byrne in November 1977) and so Phil Murphy’s surprisingly narrow victory still defied recent history while securing the liberal governor another 4 year hitch.

Micah Rasmussen

The director of the Rebovich Institute for NJ Politics at Rider University, Micah Rasmussen’s very busy election season included co-hosting multiple high profile debates and generally showing up all over the place (on media old and new) sharing thoughtful and compelling insights about NJ’s 2021 Election Season.

Mr. Rasmussen’s daily reports on early voting tallies were catnip  to political junkies. Those early voting updates (I took mine by Twitter) demonstrated Mr. Rasmussen’s ability  to create an interesting and suspenseful narrative.

Women in Politics

The voters have spoken and more women are headed to Trenton. I reached out to Micah Rasmussen (see above) to help me confirm the final tally. “New Jersey will increase its number of women legislators,” Mr. Rasmussen told InsiderNJ.  Currently, 37 of NJ’s 120 legislators are women. That number jumps to 41 out of 120 in 2022 thanks mostly to gains by women on the GOP side. “We’ll go from 30.8% to 34.17%,” Mr. Rasmussen added.  If the current results hold, the Democratic number will decline by one, from nine female senators and 19 Assembly-members to seven senators and 20 in the Assembly. The NJGOP tally will increase by five, two in the Senate to three, and from seven in the Assembly to 11.

LOSERS

Steve Sweeney

The once impregnable Steve Sweeney’s shocking loss to a political outsider revealed Sweeney’s shockingly brittle glass jaw. So go ahead and add me to the the large and growing chorus of those bewildered by this result.

LeRoy Jones

He can spin it all he wants but Election 2021 was not a good night/week for LeRoy Jones. This was Mr. Jones’ first big time election as chairman of the NJ State Democratic Party and while Gov. Murphy barely hung on to win reelection, Chairman Jones’ big debut was mostly regrettable.

Democrats took a beating up and down the ticket.

Chairman Jones was clearly not feeling self-reflective when he came out swinging to defend the right of Steve Sweeney to remain on NJ’s redistricting commission. This means that Mr. Sweeney, the newly-vanquished Senator and Senate President can redraw a more favorable districts for himself for when he runs again.

So instead of humility and self-reflection, we’ve instead got Democrats doubling down on their plan to hoard power by any means necessary.

Mike Suleiman

The chair of the Atlantic County Democrats was super touchy about anyone feeling schadenfreude when voters turned Sweeney out.

“If you’re happy that a xenophobic, anti-vaxx insurrectionist defeated a union ironworker who passed paid family & sick leave, $15/hr minimum wage, school funding reform, & a record pension payment, then you need to reevaluate your values.”

I was (not sad) Sweeney lost because he’s long been a barrier for issues like LGBTQ rights, marijuana reform, and ending NJ’s bear hunt (something Sweeney supported for years.) I’m also not thrilled about Sweeney’s habit of treating the (taxpayer funded) public sector like it’s the family store.

So instead of whining about other people, Chairman Suleiman should probably reflect on how a “xenophobic, anti-vaxx insurrectionist” remained unvetted by the rich, powerful democratic machine that he’s a part of.

Gracious Concession Speech

Still haven’t heard one from from Jack Ciattarelli. Or Steve Sweeney for that matter.

This article originally was posted at InsiderNJ.com. insidernj.com/nj-election21-winners-losers/