A Case For Competitive Congressional Districts

By Art Gallagher

Giving credit where it is do, The Asbury Park Press Editorial Board got one right in their recent editorial lamenting the closure of Fort Monmouth’s commissary.  They give a quick summary of the disaster the closure of Fort Monmouth is and how the entire BRAC decision to close the fort was based on faulting economic and home security data.

Fort Monmouth’s closure and the move of its operations to Aberdeen Maryland was a huge waste of money that compromised national security.  An investigative series by Asbury Park Press reporters Bill Bowman and Keith Brown (which is no longer linkable) documented the waste and fraudulent numbers that BRAC gave Congress to justify the closure.

In their editorial, The Asbury Park Press accurately lays the blame:

The closing of the base was based on faulty economic and security research in the first place, and yet even with the facts on their side, Reps Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, along with Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez could not carry the day.

That is largely due to the fact that the faulty economic and security data was uncovered by Bowman and Brown after Congress had already voted to close the fort.  Pallone, Holt, Lautenberg and Menendez didn’t have the juice to uncover that data before or during the BRAC hearings when it might have made a difference.  Worse, the didn’t have the juice needed with their congressional colleagues to keep the fort in New Jersey.  Maryland’s delegation had the juice.

This latest insulting failure is just one in a decades, maybe centuries, long example of ineffective congressional representation from New Jersey.  Not just Pallone, Holt, Lautenberg and Menendez, but most of the delegation. Every two years during congressional elections challengers complain that New Jersey only gets a fraction of the money we send to Washington sent back, but it never changes.  Has there ever been a House Speaker from New Jersey?  Name on U.S. Senator from New Jersey who could be considered a historic figure.

As Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray indicated during his interview on the LaRossa and Gallagher Radio Show two weeks ago, New Jersey Congressmen have little incentive to represent the interests or philosophies of their constituents.  They vote how ever they want and work on, or don’t work on, whatever they want without regard for the good of their constituents because no matter what they do, their jobs are safe.  Historically, gerrymandering as assured that an incumbent member of congress will be reelected time after time except in the rarest or circumstances.

A competitive congressional district map could go a long way to improving the quality of representation New Jersey gets from the people we send to Washington.  Currently, Congressmen face no consequences for failures like the BRACing of Fort Monmouth.  Despite the rants of congressional challengers every two years about the about of money that New Jersey sends to Washington vs the amount of money that comes back, that situation never changes and our representitives have little incentive to work to change it.

If competitive congressional elections were the norm, rather than a rare exception, New Jersey would get better representation and better results.

New Jersey’s Redistricting Commission has a huge opportunity to create an environment that could lead to an major improvement in the quality of our representation in Washington over the next decade.  If past is prelude, the Democrats and Republicans on the commission will spend the process jockeying for influence with the “13th tie breaking” member.  The commission will predictably produce a winning map for one party which will be a losing map for the other party. 

For New Jersey to have a “winning map” would require at least one party to propose a competitive map based upon population and geography only without regard for the residency of incumbents or the historical voting trends of residents, and for the “13th member,” former Attorney General and Acting Governor for ninety minutes, John Farmer Jr, to do the right thing.

Otherwise, it won’t really matter much which party “wins” the redistricting battle.  New Jersey’s representation in Washington will not likely improve if the people will send there have little incentive to work for it.

By the way, Lautenberg and Pallone are scheduled to make a “surprise announcement” in Belmar tomorrow. 

Pray for rain. 

Maybe Lautenberg is announcing his retirement and endorsing Pallone to replace him.  Not likely, but one can hope.

More likely they will announce some legislation they are sponsoring that will probably never become law or some appropriation they are proposing or maybe even secured that will not have nearly postive impact on New Jersey that the negative impact that the closure of Fort Monmouth will have.

Posted: August 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Congress, Congressional Redistricting, Frank Lautenberg, Frank Pallone, LaRossa and Gallagher, Patrick Murray, Redistricting, Rush Holt | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

7 Comments on “A Case For Competitive Congressional Districts”

  1. Bob English said at 11:41 am on August 16th, 2011:

    The Fort was basically lost when BRAC choose to go with the false/incorrect numbers that were provided by the Army/DOD and not those of the Save The Fort group which in retrospect was providing correct information. A former member of BRAC said that if the Committee had used the correct information, the outcome might very well have been different. In a nutshell, BRAC was given data that was much closer to being correct than what they had from the Army/DOD, they just chose not to believe it.

    Whether the incorrect info was intentionally provided (to reach a predetermined possibly politically motivated outcome) or if it was just a case of incompetence on the part of the Army/DOD, we may never know.

    The APP reporters did a great job in following the story for several years. Note that they did not exactly “uncover” data that nobody else could. The info on the higher cost of the move has been available on govt websites for the last several years.

    I always thought it strange that other news outlets did not pick up on the story. I personally contacted the editors of several major papers and TV News shows. Note that there are a number of other bases around the country were the costs of closing/moving were also grossly underestimated.

  2. Rick Ambrosia said at 11:42 am on August 16th, 2011:

    You might be able to make that case if the other 49 states did the same thing. But they don’t. You’re looking to pack the state delegation with republicans, just like they did in Texas a few years back. If you weren’t, then you wouldn’t be so cynical in your writings when it comes to the representation we have now. Who are you kidding?

  3. Deutsch-Bürger said at 12:49 pm on August 16th, 2011:

    I am German.

    Americans have too many military bases. The rest of the world is tired of your influence. The rest of the world is tired of lending to you. America is a burden on the rest of us. Listen to your allies, your friends. Ron Paul should be your vice president or foreign secretary.

    beyond: why don’t you accept my email address?

  4. ArtGallagher said at 1:18 pm on August 16th, 2011:


    I can understand your cynicsm, but my motivations are much more base.

    In addition to better representation, competive elections would have the added benifit of boosting blog traffic. 🙂

  5. Rick Ambrosia said at 2:10 pm on August 16th, 2011:

    I knew it! The ulterior motive comes out!

    Well, can’t fault you there.

  6. Monmouth Girl said at 2:11 pm on August 16th, 2011:

    Deutsch-Bürger you are so right we have too many bases. However they are needed because from past experience we have been caught unprepared for globel conflicts such as in 1914 and 1939. Maybe you heard of the two conflicts – you remember when the kind peace loving people of Germany were attacked by the military supermen of France, Belguim and Poland. Your forefathers were caught completely off guard – they were just trying to be the good neighbors they had always been! By the way I was being sarcastic.

    Talk about being a burden – 10s of millions dead either through battle or extermination by Germany and you can sit there with a straight face and bad mouth America!

    If you have a problem with America why don’t you goose step back to the Reich!

  7. TR said at 5:08 pm on August 16th, 2011:

    Hey Douche Burger, I got news for you America is tired of bailing Europes ass out of the fire. Twice we had to kick your fanatical ass and then we had to protect you from the commies. We wouldn’t need so many bases if Europe pulled its freaking weight. Heres the deal. You will think we are to powerful until the day you need us.

    As to Arts post. Of course their were political reasons for stacking the last Brac round. Out west and South of the Mason Dixon line States did real well. Anybody who thinks there where no political considerations is dumb deaf and blind.