GOP Controls Legislature in Traditionally Democratic N.J.
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ New Jersey voters, infuriated by tax increases, swept away Democratic dominance of the state Legislature on Tuesday and replaced it with a rock- solid Republican majority.
Democratic control collapsed so thoroughly that Republicans will now be able to override any veto by Democratic Gov. Jim Florio - the real target of most voters’ anger.
″We are in the midst of a recession,″ said Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria, one of the fortunate Democrats who kept his seat. ″People are unhappy, people are out of work, people cannot feed their familes. And they are taking it out on their elected officials.″
The sweep by the GOP was far bigger than the most optimistic Republican predictions. In the state Senate, where Democrats have enjoyed a 23-17 majority, Republicans will have a 27-13 majority. In the Assembly, where Democrats have had control by a 43-37 margin, Republicans will have a stunning 58-22 majority.
Both margins are beyond the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
Republicans last controlled both houses in 1971.
Florio, a Democrat who won legislative approval of a $2.8 billion tax increase in June 1990, pledged to ″put aside partisan differences, and govern together.″
With all seats up for election Tuesday, the Republican strategy was to link all the Democrats with Florio’s tax increases, even nearly a dozen new candidates who were not in office last year.
″There is definitely an anti-Democratic tide, no doubt about it,″ said Steve DeMicco, executive director of the State Democratic Committee.
The Republican romp took out such leading Democrats as Sens. Laurence Weiss, Francis McManimon, Gerald Stockman, Gabriel Ambrosio, Paul Contillo and Thomas Foy, and Assembly members Marlene Lynch Ford and Anthony Cimino.
Campaign spending was projected at a record $14 million for offices that pay $35,000 annually, said Frederick Herrman, executive director of the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
The anti-tax movement already had spawned Statehouse rallies and the near- defeat of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley a year ago.
The Democrats attempted to retaliate against the voter anger with a property tax relief program, but could not overcome the combination of anti- tax feeling, a bad economy and Florio’s continuing unpopularity. In addition, Democrats had angered powerful lobbies such as the New Jersey Education Association teachers’ union and the National Rifle Association.
Some Democrats tried to distance themselves from Florio’s tax increases. But Florio, in speeches late in the campaign, urged the party to ″get off its knees″ and come out swinging. He urged voters to back Democrats to send President Bush a message that GOP policies hurt the middle class.