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11-5-14 Post-Election and Education Issues - In the News

Post-Election Analysis: State Sends Three New Members to Congress, Christie Helps Secure Victories for Republican Governors (Courtesy of Princeton Public Affairs Group)

As the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Governor Christie campaigned for Governors in 36 states, spending more than a third of his second term out of New Jersey while raising “a record amount of money.” Christie raised over $100 million during his chairmanship. To compare, the Chairman during the last midterm cycle, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, raised $76 million.


Republican Governors were able to win reelection in several hotly contested races in Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. In addition, Republican challengers picked up seats in Illinois and Maryland. Meanwhile, the only incumbent Republican Governor to lose was Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania. By the end of the night, there was a net increase of three Republican Governor seats. At press time, Colorado and Connecticut were still too close to call. In Colorado, Democrat John Hickenlooper holds a slight edge over Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. Dan Malloy has a slight lead against Republican Tom Foley.


Governor Christie is scheduled this morning to make the television talk show rounds where questions about his plans for the Presidential race in 2016 will be high on the list. The Governor has said that he will address that specific issue sometime around the 1st of the year.


All of New Jersey’s twelve congressional seats were up for election on November 4, 2014. Voters elected three new members to Congress as two members, Representative Jon Runyan and Representative Rush Holt, decided to not seek reelection and Representative Rob Andrews resigned. The Garden State is sending Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, State Senator Donald Norcross, and insurance executive Tom MacArthur to Congress. Bonnie Watson Coleman is making history as the first African American woman to be sent to Congress. Additionally she will be the first female Congresswoman from New Jersey in more than a decade.


Key highlights from county races include incumbent Kathleen Donovan losing the Bergen County Executive seat to former Paramus Mayor James Tedesco. Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. held on to his Essex County Executive seat. Assemblywoman Celeste Riley beat the incumbent, Gloria Notto, to become the County Clerk in Cumberland County.

New Jersey voters cast ballots for two constitutional amendments. The first concerned bail reform, which asked voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow judges to deny pre-trial release to some defendants charged with serious crimes. Governor Christie and legislative leadership have advocated for bail reform for over two years. The second ballot dedicates money from the corporate business tax toward open space preservation.


Congressional Delegation

U.S. Senate

Senator Cory Booker (D) easily won, by a 56-42 margin, over Jeff Bell (R) for his full, six-year term after succeeding the late Senator Frank Lautenberg.

District 1

State Senator Donald Norcross (D) defeated Garry Cobb (R), the former Philadelphia Eagle, by a margin of 57-39. Representative Rob Andrews (D) vacated the seat earlier this year to take a position at a Philadelphia law firm after serving as the 10th longest tenured Member in the Garden State’s history.

District 2

Representative Frank LoBiondo (R) was successful in seeking an 11th term against William Hughes Jr. (D). Representative Frank LoBiondo won by a margin of 61-36. The race focused primarily on New Jersey’s economy, particularly the closing of four Atlantic City casinos. William Hughes Jr.’s father represented the district before Representative LoBiondo.

District 3

After the announced retirement of Representative Jon Runyan (R) who has served since 2011, the race featured two challengers, Tom MacArthur (R), the former Randolph mayor, and Aimee Belgard (D), a Burlington County freeholder, in this traditionally Republican district. Tom MacArthur won by a margin of 54-43.  

District 5

In the race between incumbent Representative Scott Garrett (R) and newcomer, a corporate attorney, Roy Cho (D), Representative Scott Garrett (R) prevailed with a 55-43 margin. Garrett has served since 2003. 

District 12

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) beat out Dr. Alieta Eck (R), a medical doctor, by a margin of 60-36. Dr. Alieta Eck had previously unsuccessfully run for the Republican Senate nomination. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has served in the Assembly since 1998, serving as Assembly Majority Leader and State Democratic Chair.


Key County Races

Bergen County

Freeholder James Tedesco (D) beat out incumbent Kathleen Donovan (R) for County Executive. This was Donovan’s first loss on the county level in 25 years. The county budget and law enforcement consolidation were among the key issues. 

In the Freeholder race, Bernadette Coughlan-Walsh (R) and Robert Avery (R) were unsuccessful in the race against incumbents David Ganz (D) and former Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D).

Burlington County

Prior to the election, Republicans held a 3-2 edge on the five-member freeholder board. Republicans maintained their hold on county government with wins by Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio (R) and Mary Ann O’Brien (R) who beat out Edgewater Park Mayor Thomas Pullion and former Evesham Councilman Michael Schmidt. Garganio and O’Brien had previously been unsuccessful in their reelection bid in 2012 when President Obama was at the top of the ticket.

Cumberland County

Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D) defeated Gloria Nato (R), who was the first woman elected as clerk in Cumberland County. Gloria Nato has served in the position for the past 20 years.

Essex County

Incumbent Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. (D) slid into victory over challenger Peter Tanella (R) for the Essex County Executive seat. DiVincenzo has served as the Essex County Executive since 2003 while Tanella, the former Mayor of Cedar Grove, has served as a member of the Town Council in Cedar Grove since 2005.

Hudson County

Gerard Balmir (D) of Jersey City will serve as a Hudson County Freeholder in a three-year term winning against Dwayne Baskerville (I). Currently Balmir, is a Commissioner of the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority having been appointed by Mayor Steve Fulop.

Passaic County

Incumbents Theodore “TJ” Best, Jr. (D) and Bruce James (D) held on to their seats after being challenged by John Capo (R) and Claudia Chavez (R) keeping the Passaic County Freeholder Board filled by all Democrats as it has been since 2013.

Vying for the County Clerk position, Jeffrey Gardner (D) ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Kristin Corrado (R). Unofficial vote tallies have Corrado in the lead by more than 1,200 votes.

Union County

Ralph Froehlich (D) served as Union County Sherriff for 36 years before passing away in June 2014. Acting Sherriff and Union County Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D) won the election against Michael Ince (R), a former Clark police officer and retired FBI agent for the three-year term. Cryan will have to vacate his Assembly seat, in Legislative District 20, that he has held since 2002.


Ballot Questions

Bail Reform

Voters overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail to the most dangerous defendants and usher in comprehensive bail reform for all. This new law, in combination with the legislation passed earlier this year, will allow nonviolent, low-risk people awaiting trial for drug law violations and other petty crimes to not have to wait in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay money bail.


Governor Christie indicated that the fix was necessary because New Jersey's constitution only permits judges to deny bail to defendants charged with offenses punishable by the death penalty. However, New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007, which meant that all defendants were eligible for bail.


Open Space

New Jersey voters also approved the constitutional amendment creating a permanent funding source for state open space, historic preservation, agriculture, and flood buyout programs. The measure directs that 4% of the corporate business tax be dedicated to land preservation. The amount will increase to 6% in July 2019. 


Education Week - Republicans Will Control Senate in the 114th Congress

By Lauren Camera on November 4, 2014 11:38 PM

Republicans will control the U.S. Senate during the 114th Congress thanks to wins in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and South Dakota, all tight and expensive races that in the end fell to conservative candidates and gave the GOP enough seats to call the chamber their own.

While divided government will remain as the White House is in Democratic hands at least until President Barack Obama finishes his second term, the new political calculation in Congress will likely spur movement on education bills, including an overhaul of the outdated No Child Left Behind Act that lessens the role of the federal government.

So who will be the major education players in the Senate next Congress? Largely, they're names you'll recognize.

Ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who was re-elected on Tuesday, is set to slide into the chairman's position. And though it's not a sure bet, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., will likely take on the ranking member position as the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, retires at the end of the year.

Alexander is known as a pragmatic politician, fond of working across the aisle. As ranking member, he collaborated with Harkin to usher through the committee several bipartisan bills, including a since-stalled reauthorization of the NCLB law, education research and child-care development bills, and a revamping of workforce training legislation, which the president signed into law over the summer.

Alexander, a former U.S. Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, has already laid out his education priorities, which include overhauling the NCLB law and tackling higher education legislation.

As my colleague, Alyson Klein pointed out in an earlier analysis of what a Republican takeover would mean for education policy, the starting point for Alexander would be a bill he introduced last year to renew the NCLB law. The plan garnered support from every GOP member of the committee, but didn't get a single Democratic cosponsor.

The measure would significantly scale back the federal role in K-12 policy, allowing states to devise their own accountability plans, among other things. As under the current law, schools would be required to test students in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school, and report the results, including for subgroups of students, such as English-language learners and those in special education.

A similar measure passed the House without a single Democratic vote last year.

Turning to the Higher Education Act, which both chambers have made baby steps toward reauthorizing this year, Alexander has teamed up with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to offer one of the most comprehensive proposals.

The measure would combine two federal grant programs into one Pell Grant program and reduce the six different federal loan programs into three: one for undergraduates, one for graduates, and one for parents. It would also eliminate the cumbersome student-aid application, increase financial-aid counseling, reinstate the year-round Pell Grant, and streamline current loan-repayment plans into two: an income-contingent plan and a 10-year repayment plan. 

The plan differs from the piecemeal strategy Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is ushering through the House, and Harkin's 700-page comprehensive strategy.

The two other education policy areas that will likely be affecdted by the Republican takeover of the Senate are funding and school choice.

Conservatives will almost certainly use the budget process to try to eliminate the Obama administration's favorite competitive-grant programs, such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and the School Improvement Grant program. GOP lawmakers in the House have tried for the past few years to scrap those programs, but Senate Democrats have always championed them in budget negotiations.

Meanwhile school choice policies have become signature issues for a number of high-profile Republican senators widely seen as having presidential aspirations, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, both of whom have written or co-sponsored school choice bills.

Alexander also has a school choice proposal, which would allow states to take almost all of their federal K-12 funds and combine them into one giant block grant aimed at creating scholarships for low-income students that could be used at any school, private or public.

In addition, he's worked with Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, on a bill to revamp the federal charter-school-grant program. A similar measure passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this year, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

Don't forget to join us Nov. 12 for After the Storm: What the 2014 Election Results Mean for K-12 Policy, a live Education Week event at Gallup headquarters in Washington

Star Ledger - More N.J. school districts voting in November, but campaigns take a backseat on the ballot

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
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on November 02, 2014 at 8:10 AM, updated November 02, 2014 at 8:24 AM

TRENTON — When West Orange voters go to the polls on Tuesday, the ballot will be crowded.

There is the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Cory Booker, Republican challenger Jeff Bell, and five others. Another four people are running for Congress.

They also must decide on the next Essex County executive and county register, and choose among 10 candidates seeking election to five seats on the Board of Freeholders. Locally, there is also a West Orange mayoral race and a crowded field running for council.

And off to the side of the ballot, in a small box, they will find Laura Lab, running unopposed for the West Orange Board of Education.

More school districts than ever are moving their board of education elections to November, in an effort to save taxpayer money and getting more people involved in the selection of their school boards. Even more districts made the switch this year.

But while officials say the election moves have had an impact, school board races in New Jersey still largely overshadowed by whatever main event is on the ballot.

“It has saved money for taxpayers, which is a good thing. But it has not in any way increased voter turnout for school board candidates appearing on the November general election ballot for which it was intended to do,” said Christopher Durkin, the Essex County Clerk. “We are seeing a significant drop off in vote totals from statewide offices to county offices to local municipal offices down to local school board candidates and ballot questions.”

School board elections in New Jersey were once a casual springtime event, with budgets and candidates vying for the attention of mostly inattentive residents who rarely took the time to vote. Beginning in 2012, however, school districts were given the option to move their board elections to November, under a law aimed at cutting the expense of a separate election, and getting more people to vote in school board races. Hundreds of districts across the state made the switch.

While the turnout in November in school board elections has been greater than in April, Middlesex County Clerk Elaine Flynn said many voters still do not vote for board of education candidates, perhaps because they are harder to find on the ballot.

“They sometimes forget to vote for school board candidates and also do not vote for questions that might appear,” she said.

Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, conceded that school board elections are eclipsed by other races on the ballot, but believes avoiding separate elections — with the costs of renting voting machines, printing ballots, and hiring election workers — has still made sense for most districts.

“It saves a lot of money,” he said.

This year, according to Belluscio, 514 communities are holding their school board elections in November, up from 501 last year and 468 in 2012, when districts were first given the option to move to the fall.


One of his early concerns in switching election dates was whether putting a non-partisan school board election into the heat of a politically divisive state or local race might politicize the district campaigns as well. But while school board elections can sometimes turn into bitter fights between political factions — as it does every year in the city of Elizabeth — Belluscio said it has not been a major issue in most places.

“Some early ballot constructions gave the impression that board of education candidates were running on partisan lines, but those have been corrected,” he said.

Durkin said his office separates the school board elections on the ballot so they do not appear under the partisan lines, but said he still gives them prominent placement. Sample ballots in Essex County for the Tuesday election has school board races as a box to the right side.

Campaign money, meanwhile, has been drying up in school board races with the move to November elections, according to new data from the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. Last year, $1.1 million was raised for school board races statewide, a 38 percent drop over the previous year. Campaign spending fell from $1.5 million in 2011 — the year before school boards were allowed to move to Novembers, to $668,706 last year.

“The spending has really decreased,” remarked Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of the state agency overseeing campaign finance in New Jersey.

Part of the reason for that is that school budgets are no longer voted on in those districts that made the move to November, provided they stay within the 2 percent tax levy cap.

Brindle, though, remains concerned that the November board elections still might lead to more politicization of school races.

“They have to run as non-partisan candidates, but they can be endorsed by other candidates and parties, and it seems that is going on a little bit more and more, obviously with the election in November,” he said.

Last week, a slate of candidates for the Elizabeth Board of Education went to court, accusing a political action committee tied to state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) of illegally bankrolling its rivals’ campaigns. A Union County judge dismissed the case on Thursday, but lawyers for the group said they plan to refile.

In West Orange, there is no such political intrigue. Laura Lab, the lone candidate for the board of education said all eyes in her town are on the mayoral and council race, and not the school board.

Lab, running for her third term, said serving on the board takes a lot of time and is a hard job that many people may not want to take on. As for running a campaign in which she is unopposed, Lab ventured that raising money and putting up lawn signs would just be silly.

“I haven’t had to do a thing,” she said.

Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook