Strange election season comes to a close Tuesday
Sun Nov 6, 2011.
Twitter sex advice, county pot farms and a protracted legal battle over an Olympic legend’s residency.
Those story lines featured prominently during this year’s election season, which features no federal or statewide races but plenty of legislative, county and municipal contests.
Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.
At the top of the ballot this year are the races for state Legislature, where all 120 seats are up for grabs.
The Democrats hold a 47-33 majority in the Assembly and a 24-16 edge in the Senate. That’s unlikely to change after Tuesday, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie hopes his party can win more seats to help him push legislation through.
The Democrats, in turn, hope to strengthen their majorities in the Legislature to keep the outspoken governor in check and possibly overrule him on legislation he vetoes.
The wild card in all this is the new legislative map, which was redrawn to reflect population changes after the 2010 census.
Although the new boundaries are considered favorable to incumbents, residents in some towns may find themselves voting for some unfamiliar names Tuesday.
The competitive 7th District
One district that underwent significant changes was Burlington County’s 7th Legislative District, which gained Bordentown Township, Bordentown City, Moorestown and Mount Laurel and lost Maple Shade, Mount Holly, Westampton, Merchantville and Pennsauken.
The changes prompted longtime Democratic Assemblyman Jack Conners to retire, and they set the stage for the district to become one of the state’s few competitive races.
The contest pits Republican businessman Chris Halgas of Moorestown and Mount Laurel Mayor Jim Keenan against incumbent Democrat Herb Conaway Jr. of Delanco and his running mate, labor leader Troy Singleton of Palmyra.
Republican Sen. Diane Allen is also running for re-election in the district, but is considered a heavy favorite over her Democratic challenger, Beverly Mayor Gail Cook.
Both campaigns have spent heavily on television advertising, and their respective parties have also pumped thousands of dollars into the race for glossy mailers and other campaign tools.
Both sides agree that the Legislature should do more to boost jobs and reduce reliance on property taxes, but their strategies for doing so differ.
The Republicans want to cap state spending and cut taxes and regulations to promote business growth. They oppose the return of an income tax surcharge on millionaire residents, claiming it would drive wealthy residents and businesses out of the state.
The Democrats support the tax hike on millionaires, stating it is a fair way to raise revenue for schools and other programs that help middle-class families. They also support infrastructure improvements as a way to create jobs and tax incentives for businesses to expand and hire more employees.
Carl Lewis’ legal battle
The other legislative races in Burlington County are not expected to be as competitive, largely because of the absence of former track star Carl Lewis.
The nine-time gold medalist created a sensation in the spring, when he announced he would run as a Democrat for the 8th District’s Senate seat held by Republican Dawn Marie Addiego. But Lewis was quickly booted off the ballot by New Jersey Secretary of State Kim Guadagno after the Burlington County Republicans complained that he did not meet the state Constitution’s four-year residency requirement for that office.
Lewis, who grew up in Willingboro but spent most of his adult life in Texas and California, sued to overturn the decision, arguing that he moved back to New Jersey in 2006 and that the residency requirement violated his constitutional rights.
A legal battle over the residency rule lasted through the summer and featured multiple court rulings that had Lewis on the ballot one week and off it the next. Ultimately, a federal appeals panel decided that Lewis should not be permitted to run. The Democrats were unable to replace him with a new candidate without taking additional legal action.
The court’s decision left Addiego with an uncontested Senate race and Democratic Assembly candidates Anita Lovely and Pam Finnerty with an uphill battle to defeat Republican incumbent Scott Rudder and his running mate, Burlington County Freeholder Chris Brown.
Pot activist Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion is running as an independent in the race.
Twitter sex advice
The races in the 6th, 9th and 12th legislative districts involve only a few Burlington County towns, and the incumbents there are considered heavy favorites.
The races have gotten little attention except for a brief uproar in the 6th District over Republican Senate candidate Phil Mitsch’s Twitter posts.
Mitsch, a former Realtor and self-styled “economic recovery expert” who frequently posts tips, quotes, and messages about a wide range of topics on his Twitter page, drew strong reprimands from Democrats and Republicans for a comment he posted in April that urged women to be “a lady in the living room and a whore in the bedroom.”
Although Mitsch later issued an apology, the Camden County Republicans decided to drop their support for the outspoken candidate.
At the county level, Republicans Leah Arter of Moorestown and Joe Howarth of Evesham are trying to return the Burlington County Board of Freeholders back to all-GOP status for the first time since 2008. They are being opposed by incumbent Mary Anne Reinhart of Shamong and running mate Machell Still-Pettis of Westampton.
Reinhart, who was elected in 2008 along with Freeholder Chris Brown and County Clerk Tim Tyler, is the only remaining Democrat in a county elected office. Brown, Tyler and county Surrogate George Kotch all switched to the GOP.
Kotch, who was elected in 2006, is running for re-election against Democrat Sander Friedman. His office handles the probation of wills and adoption issues.
Reinhart recently made headlines when she proposed using some of the county’s preserved farmland to grow medical marijuana, as part of the state-approved medical marijuana program, to generate more revenue for the county. She also proposed growing barley and hops for beer production and red beets, which are being used as road de-icer in some parts of the country.
Her proposal prompted county Sheriff Jean Stanfield to conduct an unsolicited study that concluded that security at just one marijuana farm would cost the county upward of $1.2 million annually.
Reinhart responded that the farms would be leased to state-licensed alternative treatment centers, which would be responsible for security.
and public questions
There are local elections in 29 of the county’s 40 municipalities.
Twenty will feature contested races, including Burlington City, where the mayor’s office and three seats on the City Council are in contention, and Mount Holly, which is having an unusual November nonpartisan election for the Township Council to fill an unexpired term.
Voters in Mount Holly also will cast ballots on a public question that would move the township’s nonpartisan election from May to November.
In Moorestown, residents will vote on two questions concerning liquor sales. The first seeks approval to end the township’s 97-year dry status. The second seeks to limit liquor sales to full-service restaurants at the Moorestown Mall.
Besides those local questions, voters across the state will weigh in on whether New Jersey should permit sports betting at casinos and racetracks if a federal ban on the practice is lifted.
David Levinsky: 609-871-8154;