Tell Me Why I Should Bother Voting In A Gerrymandered District

By Tommy DeSeno

Tommy DeSenoI think I need a political intervention.   I’m apathetic. I can’t find a reason to vote next year in the midterm congressional races.  Upon self-reflection I can’t decide if I’m enlightened or jaded.  Or both.   I just know I no longer care to cast a ballot.

I grew up schooled with the same civic lessons as the rest of America.  Served to me in full measure was that good government is  the result of the patriotic duty of voting and I swallowed it all.

I have been voting for more than 30 years and don’t recall having ever missed an opportunity to vote for a congressman.

Yet I’ve come to realize that I’ve been denied the opportunity to ever vote for a congressman.

Like elsewhere, the year after the census New Jersey gets redistricted.   Some connected political sorts from both parties negotiate in a hotel and as best I can tell, decide how the parties will split the state’s congressional delegation for the next 10 years.   Following that, the rest of us dutifully vote and pretend like it matters, doing nothing more than adding a façade of legitimacy to the literal backroom deal of the redistricting committee.

I lived for many years in what is now New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District (the number of the district has changed but the same suspect remains at-large).

The Congressman in NJ 6 is Democrat Frank Pallone, Jr.   Pallone serves many Monmouth County residents.  On the County level, Monmouth has been overwhelmingly a Republican county for decades.  Pallone represents  28 Monmouth County towns and 9 from Middlesex County.  However, Frank’s district has in it tentacles that grab certain neighborhoods (not even whole towns) from two other counties that are Democrat strongholds (and you can guess why).

In doing so the 6th district lumps together sleepy little shore towns in one county with industrial settings in another, creating a varied constituency where the people have little in common.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: July 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Congress, Congressional Redistricting, Tommy DeSeno | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

Report: Rothman will challenge Pascrell in redrawn CD-9

The congressional redistricting commission charged with redrawing New Jersey’s district map to create 12 congressional districts instead of the previous 13 put conservative Republican Scott Garrett of Wantage and liberal Democrat Steve Rothman of Fair Lawn in the same district.  Based upon historical voting patterns, Garrett had a 4% edge in the new district.

But 54% of Rothman’s old district was given to Democrat Bill Pascrell, the former Mayor of Patterson who wants a little highway named after himself.

Rothman did the math over the weekend and decided he has a better chance of keeping his insider trading privileges if he runs against Pascrell in the Democratic primary than if he faces Garrett in the November general election, according to a report on NorthJersey.com

Rothman will move from Fair Lawn back to Englewood where he was once mayor.

Posted: December 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Congressional Redistricting | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Redistricting Commission Looking To Limit Towns Represented By More Than One Congressman

Both Democratic and Republicans members of the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission prefer to reduce the number of towns that are split between two or three districts, according to a report on NJ.com.

If they could find a way to reduce the number of two faced congressmen, that would be real progress.

Due to the one person one vote rule, each district must have 732,658 residents per the 2010 census,  it is mathematically impossible to completely elminate fragmented towns.  So says Bill Caster, the Democrats lawyer on the commission.

Linden and Jersey City have three congressmen.   35 municipalities are divided between two districts.

In Monmouth County, Manalapan, Marlboro and Middletown are each divided between the 6th district, currently represented by Frank Pallone, and the 12thdistrict, currently represented by Rush Holt, both Democrats.

Manalapan and Middletown are Republican towns.  Marlboro usually votes Republican on the county, state and federal levels but has been taken over by the “LaHornicca” Democrats locally.

Manalapan has 9,060 registered voters in the 6th district; 15,787 in the 12th.  Marlboro has 9,148 registered voters in the 6th; 15,957 in the 12th.  Middletown has 21,725 in the 6th and 22,264 in the 12th.

A Republican challenger to either Pallone or Holt would theoretically benefit by each of these towns landing in only one district.  A competitive district could emerge if all three towns were united and placed into the same district.   If that happens, maybe Anna Little will give up her U.S. Senate bid and run for Congress again.

Former State Attorney General John Farmer, the redistricting commission’s chairman and tie breaking vote, has said he would like the commission to complete its work today.  By law, the new map must be completed by January 17th.

Posted: December 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Redistricting | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Redistricting Commission Looking To Limit Towns Represented By More Than One Congressman

Naming Public Facilities

The Assembly Transportation Committee released a bill yesterday that if passed will rename Route 19 in Passaic County after Congressman Bill Pascrell.

Now Pascrell, 74, should announce his retirement and save the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission a lot of work.  Doing so would eliminate all controversy over naming a state highway after him.

Barney Frank, 71, the Massachusetts Congressman from Bayonne, announced his retirement after the Bay State announced their new congressional districts.  Frank said he didn’t want to raise the money or do the electioneering necessary to get elected in his new district. 

Pascrell announcing his retirement prior to the new congressional districts being determined would be a selfless act of public service.  The rest of New Jersey’s congressional delegation would want to name a more prominent road after him.  The Resdistricting Commission’s work would become easy and appropriate, as the district to be eliminated should be from North Jersey where the population has declined vis-a-vis the rest of the state.

If Pascrell announced his retirement, the bill to name Route 19 after him could be fast tracked in the lame duck legislative session.  Governor Christie might even sign it, despite the fact that Pascrell was a Corzine caddy, second only to Frank Pallone, during the 2009 gubernatorial campaign.

If Pascrell does not take this opportunity to retire, the question of the appropriateness of naming public facilities after sitting office holders should be hotly debated.  Every member of the Assembly Transportation committee except Burlington County Assemblyman Scott Rudder voted to release the Pascrell naming bill to the full Assembly. Rudder said that naming a road after a sitting office holder was hypocritical and that the state has more pressing issues. 

Rudder is right, but there is a stronger argument against giving away the names of public facilities.  In these difficult economic times, we should sell and resell the names of our roads, bridges and buildings, with all of the proceeds going to either retire debt or build new facilities, thereby avoiding new debt.

There is precedent for this type of revenue generation.  Former Governor Brendan Byrne’s name was taken off the Meadowlands Arena in favor of Continental Airlines and later Izod who both paid handsomely for the naming rights.

Glassboro State College was renamed Rowan University after Mr. Rowan donated $100 million.

The State and New Jersey’s counties and municipalities could benefit greatly by selling naming rights to businesses and philanthropists.

Posted: November 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Congress, Congressional Redistricting, Economy, Government Waste, Legislature, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Does Congressional Seniority Matter? Should It Trump Competitiveness?

In a piece published at Politickernj and on his Real Numbers blog, Monmouth University Polling Director Patrick Murray argues that district competitiveness should be less of a consideration in drawing the new congressional map than he argued it should have been in the state legislative map.

Murray says that no other state uses competitiveness as a criteria for drawing their maps and that New Jersey would be at a disadvantage if it did so.

“If you were expecting me to argue the same for the Congressional redistricting process, though, you would be wrong.  The influence of any state’s delegation is based largely on their influence with the upper echelons of Congressional leadership.  Absolute seniority in itself is not important, but some degree of longevity is necessary for members of our delegation to establish those important relationships.

Since few other states use competitiveness to guide their redistricting process, New Jersey would be put at a disadvantage if it did.  Even if it made a concerted effort, our commission could probably only create 3 to 5 truly competitive districts – out of 435 nationwide.  While that might boost voter turnout in those districts, it would do little to increase the influence of New Jersey as a whole. Influence that we sorely need, considering how little we get back in federal spending for every tax dollar we send to Washington.”

While this argument is consistent with conventional thinking about congress, I’m not sure that it matches up with the current reality in Washington. 

It certainly does not match up with the current reality of the New Jersey congressional delegation, by Murray’s own words in the last sentence.  If we are getting so little back from Washington with our current delegation, most of whom have significant longevity, what good is their seniority doing us?  Would be do much worse, or any worse, with a bunch of freshmen?

In the current congress, the freshmen are running the show, much to the chagrin of the left wing media, the White House and everyone else who thinks congressmen should go to Washington to compromise rather than to do what they promised their constituents they would do during the campaigns.

New Jersey congressmen have an inauspicious history of leadership and influence.  Donald Payne and Frank Pallone are the most senior Democrats in the New Jersey delegation.  Neither have ever been leaders of note in Washington. Neither has an impressive record of getting legislation passed.

Republican Chris Smith is the longest serving member of the New Jersey delegation.  No one can deny that Smith is a leader.  He has had more legislation passed that any other member of congress.  His influence as a human rights advocate and champion of the unborn is global.  However, he is not a congressional leader.  Even with his 30 years on the hill and Republicans back in power, he is not a committee chairman or even a sub-committee chairman.

Robert Menendez has been an exception to New Jersey’s lack of congressional leadership.  He catapulted over Pallone, Payne and many other Democrats throughout the country in establishing himself as a congressional leader, eventually becoming the third highest ranking Democrat in congress before moving up to the Senate.

Worse for New Jersey residents than the lack of influence in congress that our representatives have, is some members’ lack of concern for the will of their constituents.  As Murray said during his appearance on the Real Jersey Guys Radio show on August 2, New Jersey members of congress vote however they want, regardless of how constituents feel about an issue, because gerrymandering has made their jobs so safe.

This is clearly the case in Monmouth County, the majority of which is divided between Frank Pallone’s 6th district and Rush Holt’s 12th.  Murray accurately portrays the 6th and 12th as among the most gerrymandered districts.  As a result of how these districts have been drawn in the past, much of Monmouth County is essentially disenfranchised from congressional representation.  One could easily make an argument that the suburban areas of Pallone and Holt’s districts do not have a congressman, while the urban areas have two.

Murray and I agree that congressmen need incentive to serve and represent their constituents.  There is no incentive like competition.   The congressional redistricting commission should make competiveness a prime consideration in drawing the new map.  Without competition, seniority is not all that is cracked up to be, as New Jersey’s congressional delegation has clearly demonstrated.

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Congressional Redistricting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Former Acting Governor Is 13th Member of Redistricting Commission

The Republican and Democratic parties have agreed to the selection of John Farmer Jr as the 13th member of the Congressional Redistricting Commission.  Farmer is the dean of the Rutgers University Law School and was Attorney General during the Whitman and DiFranceso administrations.  He was legal counsel to Alan Rosenthal, the tie breaking member of the state legislative reapportionment  commission.

Farmer was Acting Governor for ninety minutes on  Janurary 8, 2002, according to his Wikipedia page.

Posted: July 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Congressional Redistricting | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

Pallone Wins Lottery, Loses Moran and Influence On The Redistricting Commission

By Art Gallagher

Frank Pallone split a $75,000 lottery jackpot three ways and still ended up with more money than Anna Little has raised in her quest to unseat him. 

 The Wall Street Journal says that Pallone pocketed just under $25K after splitting the prize with his father and brother.  Little raised no money and spent $5K on her campaign according to her most recent FEC reports.

However, Pallone’s winnings and war chest can’t buy him love from the New Jersey Redistricting Commission now that his ally Maggie Moran has been booted off the commission, just as NJ.com’s Auditor predicted.

The Democrats on the Redistricting Commission are former Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez, former Assemblyman Michael Baker of East Brunswick, former Pascrell Chief of Staff Ed Farmer, former Corzine deputy chief-of-staff Jeannine LaRue of Trenton, and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen.

The Republicans are political strategist Mike DuHaime, former Burlington County Freeholder Director Aubrey Fenton, Morris County attorney Eric Jaso, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Cape May Freeholder Susan Sheppard and National Federation of Republican Woman President Sherine El-Abd.

Not a Pallone loyalist on the list.   As the senior Democrat in the NJ congressional delegation, Pallone’s seat should be safe from redistricting.  However the commission is heavy with members loyal to Democratic power broker Donald Norcross and Republican Governor Chris Christie, neither of whom are fans of Pallone.

By the population numbers, the northeast part of the state should lose a congressional district when the new map is adopted.   But Donald Payne’s 10th and Albio Sires’ 13th are minority majority districts that have to be protected.   Combining Bill Pascrell’s 8th district with Steve Rothman’s 9th would make sense on paper, but the Democrats will never agree to surrender a seat without an election.

After both sides propose maps that guarantee the other side loses a seat, the commission will likely settle on a map that pits one incumbent from each party against each other.

MMM would love to see the southeast portion of Pallone’s district combined with Congressman Chris Smith’s district.  Smith would crush Pallone.  Phoney Palloney would probably retire from the House and run for governor rather than face Smith head to head.

The other reason we would love to see such a district is because it would likely mean that the Northern Monmouth portion of CD 6 would be folded into Rush Holt’s CD 12, setting up a four way race for the GOP nomination to unseat Holt between Strong New Jersey Chairwoman Diane Gooch, Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre (the only mayor in the universe to lower property taxes four years in a row), Little, and Lincoln Club of NJ President Scott Sipprelle.   That would be a great race for web traffic and advertising revenue!

Posted: June 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Congressional Redistricting | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »