Pre-election polls showed a virtual dead heat in both the 2nd and 38th Districts. Whelan and Sen. Robert Gordon (D-38) both won by larger-than-expected margins after their campaigns did a better job of pulling out their vote.

“Money matters, but nothing beats boots on the ground,” said Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, adding the labor movement had 11,000 volunteers knocking on 140,000 doors on Tuesday.

“In a race in which you know there’s going to be a small turnout, it’s the ground game that matters — it’s the culmination of weeks of work making phone calls, knocking on doors, and turning out your vote.”

Gordon said “we couldn’t have won” without the small army of police, firefighters, teachers, building trades workers and environmental activists that made up his field operation. The strong effort not only helped Gordon and his Assembly running mates, but also enabled Democrats to elect two Bergen freeholders, the county clerk, the county surrogate and numerous mayors and council members, ending a two-year Republican tide in the county, said Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36).

Large-scale GOTV operations were also critical in helping the Democrats hold both Assembly seats in the 7th, as well as the larger-than-expected victory margins of Sen. Linda Greenstein and her running mates in the 14th District in Mercer and Middlesex counties, said state Democratic chairman and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19).

Labor’s role was a question mark after Democratic leaders convinced enough members from South Jersey and Essex County to join with Christie’s Republicans to pass a bill that not only increased pension and health benefit contributions for public employees, but also stripped them of the right to bargain over healthcare issues for four years.

While some unions vowed retribution last summer, “the public and private sector unions really came together in the final weeks because they understood the need to maintain a Democratic majority in order to prevent Gov. Christie from enacting an anti-union, anti-working family agenda,” Wowkanech said.

That didn’t mean the controversy over the bill didn’t have an impact, as the votes in the 1st District made clear. Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-1), a union shop steward who was the only South Jersey Democrat to defy Norcross by voting against the pension and health benefits bill, outpolled Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1), usually the ticket’s leading vote-getter. Albano won his Assembly seat comfortably, piling up a 3,543-vote margin over his closest opponent, while his running mate, Assemblyman Matt Milam (D-1) squeaked by with just 974 votes in the closest election in the state.


Similar Posts