Politics of New Jersey

Politics of New Jersey

New Jersey has traditionally been a political swing state, but has swung Democratic in recent decades. The Governorship has alternated between the two major parties since the election of Democrat Richard J. Hughes in 1961, with a succession of Republicans and Democrats serving as Governor. More recently, the Democrats under Jon Corzine and Richard Codey, who served as governor after the resignation of Jim McGreevey, have dominated state politics. The New Jersey Legislature has also switched hands over the years, and one house was evenly divided from 1999–2001, when the Democrats took control. Three of the last four gubernatorial elections have been close. New Jersey leans Democratic in national elections. The Congressional seats have been as evenly divided over the decades, with little change due political trends in the state.

Political history

American Revolution

In 1776, the first Constitution of New Jersey was drafted. It was written during the Revolutionary War, and was created a basic framework for the state government. The constitution granted the right of suffrage to women and black men who met certain property requirements. The [http://www.state.nj.us/njfacts/njdoc10a.htm New Jersey Constitution of 1776] allowed "all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money" to vote. This included blacks, spinsters, and widows; married women could not own property under the common law. The Constitution declared itself temporary, and it was to be void if there was reconciliation with Great Britain [ Klinghoffer and Elkis. "The Petticoat Electors: Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776–1807." Journal of the Early Republic, 12, no. 2 (1992): 159–193.] . Both parties in elections mocked the other party for relying on "petticoat electors" and accused the other of allowing unqualified women to vote.

In the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall of Princeton University. It had convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but mutinous troops prevented the meeting from taking place. Princeton became the temporary capital for the nation for four months. During the brief stay in Princeton, the Continental Congress was informed of the end of the war by the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783.

On December 18, 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution, and on November 20, 1789, New Jersey became the first state in the Nation to ratify the Bill of Rights.

Nineteenth Century

The second version of the New Jersey State Constitution was written in 1844. The constitution provided the right of suffrage only to white males, removing it from women and black men. Some of the important components of the second State Constitution include the separation of the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The new constitution also provided a bill of rights. Underneath the constitution, the people had the right to elect the governor.

2004-05 Gubernatorial vacancy

Former Governor James E. McGreevey resigned on November 15, 2004 after charges of pay-to-play and extortion scandals involving the impropriety of the appointment of a homosexual love interest. New Jersey had no Lieutenant Governor position at the time, leaving a vacancy in the office. Senate President Richard Codey served as Acting Governor (then Governor) in McGreevey's place. Jon Corzine was elected Governor of New Jersey on November 8, 2005, and took office on January 17, 2006. On Election Day, November 8, 2005, the voters passed an amendment to the state constitution creating the position of Lieutenant Governor, effective with the 2009 elections. The amendment also provides that in the event of a permanent vacancy in the office of Governor now that Governor Corzine has been sworn in and before the first Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey takes office in 2010, the President of the Senate, followed by the Speaker of the General Assembly, would become Governor (rather than Acting Governor) and will be required to vacate his or her Senate (or Assembly) seat.

Recent trends

In national elections, the New Jersey now tends to lean towards the national Democratic Party. It was, however, a Republican stronghold for years in the past, having given comfortable margins of victory to the Republican candidate in the close elections of 1948, 1968, and 1976. New Jersey was a crucial swing state in the elections of 1960, 1968, and 1992. In national elections, the state gave large victories to Democrats in the 1990's, and in the 2004 presidential election, Democratic John F. Kerry defeated George W. Bush in New Jersey by a margin of about 6%.

The Democratic trend in New Jersey is demonstrated by the fact that the Democrats have won every U.S. Senate race in New Jersey since 1980, only Massachusetts and Hawaii have had a longer record. The last elected Republican to hold a Senate seat from New Jersey was Clifford P. Case in 1979. (Nicholas Brady was appointed a U.S. Senator by Governor Thomas Kean in 1982 after Harrison A. Williams resigned the Senate seat following the Abscam investigations. Brady served eight months in office.)

Media Coverage

The political landscape in New Jersey is covered almost exclusively by the major state newspapers, including the "Star Ledger", "Trenton Times", "Trentonian" and "Gloucester County Times", with additional statewide coverage of major events by the "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "The New York Times".

Additionally, several independent alternative political websites also support a growing presence of political coverage on the internet, with sites including [http://www.politicsNJ.com PoliticsNJ] , [http://www.centralnjpolitics.blogspot.com Central NJ Politics] and [http://www.newjerseypoliticsunusual.blogspot.com NJ PoliticsUnusual] and [http://www.bluejersey.com BlueJersey] .

Partisan strongholds

The state's Democratic strongholds include Mercer County around the cities of Trenton and Princeton; Essex County and Hudson County, the state's two most urban counties, around the state's two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City; as well as Camden County and New Brunswick/Middlesex County and most of the other urban communities just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City. Even traditionally Republican Bergen County has trended towards the Democrats in recent elections.

The state's more rural to suburban northwestern counties are Republican strongholds, especially hilly Sussex County, Morris County, Hunterdon County and Warren County. Somerset, a more suburban northwestern county, also leans Republican but can be competitive in national races. In the 2004 presidential election, Bush received about 52% in Somerset and 60% in Hunterdon, while up in rural Republican Sussex County, Bush garnered 64% of the vote.

The southeastern counties along the coast also favor Republicans, notably Ocean County. However, Atlantic County, which includes urban Atlantic City, tends to vote Democratic in Presidential and US Senate elections.

wing counties

About half of the counties in New Jersey, are considered swing counties, though most lean toward one party, usually the Democrats. For example, Bergen County, is solidly Republican in wealthier north and solidly Democratic in the more populated south causing it to usually vote slightly Democratic. The same is true of Passaic County which has a densely-populated, heavily Hispanic Democratic south and a rural Republican north. Some other counties such as Cape May County lean Republican because the urbanized areas in those counties are relatively small compared to those of the more heavily Democratic counties.

New Jersey Congressional Districts

New Jersey currently has 13 House districts. In the 110th Congress, seven of New Jersey's seats are held by Democrats and six by Republicans.

The more urban districts tend to be controlled by Democrats, while the rural and most of the suburban districts are Republican. The only district in New Jersey that is competitive as of 2006 is the 7th Congressional District (NJ-07) which includes urban, suburban and rural areas in North-Central New Jersey. The 2006 election in NJ-07 was won by the Republican incumbent by just over 3,000 votes or approximately 1%. Incumbents won handily by margins over 10% in the 2006 election in the other 12 districts, though two other districts (New Jersey's 2nd congressional district and New Jersey's 3rd congressional district) were only marginally won by President Bush in 2004.

New Jersey State Constitution

The New Jersey State Constitution [http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/lawsconstitution/constitution.asp] was adopted in 1947. The constitution has a bill of rights and separation of powers. It provides for a bicameral Legislature consisting of a Senate of 40 members and an Assembly of 80 members. Each of the 40 legislative districts elects one Senator and two Assembly members. Assembly members are elected by the people for a two-year term in all odd-numbered years; Senators are elected in the years ending in 1, 3, and 7 and thus serve either four or two year terms.

The New Jersey Supreme Court

The New Jersey Supreme Court [http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/supreme/index.htm] consists of a chief justice and six associate justices. All are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of a majority of the membership of the state senate. Justices serve an initial seven-year term, after which they can be reappointed to serve until age 70.


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