Sun Editorial: Election time — It’s going to be a mild ride

The entire Legislature is up for grabs, in theory.

By Alan Bauer

The Sun

Voters will choose a new governor and Legislature in fewer than two months. How exciting is that?

OK, not very exciting, but we have to do it anyway, so we might as well get ready.

On Nov. 7, voters, in theory, could pick an entirely new state government. Gov. Christie can’t run for a third term. All 40 seats in the Senate are up for grabs, as are the 80 seats in the Assembly.

But just because something can happen doesn’t mean it will. The Legislature will look at least basically the same after the election.

Why? Are things going so swimmingly in New Jersey that we all just want to stay the course? Are our local reps the only voices of reason and intelligence in Trenton, so we vote to keep them and hope all of the others are voted out?

More likely, it’s because most incumbents are good politicians who know how to win elections. They have money, connections, name recognition and experience running campaigns. They have provided at least decent constituent service, issued countless proclamations and cut many ribbons. They also have large numbers of voters in their districts who support their party.

We shouldn’t feel bad. Everybody re-elects incumbents. The National Institute on Money in State Politics reported last year, in the last six election cycles across the nation, state legislative incumbents won 91 percent of the time.

Who’s to blame? Is there any blame? Are we simply electing the best people for the job, thereby proving the system works? Are we electing the same people, but expecting them to do different things, thereby validating Einstein’s definition of insanity? Does the system so favor incumbents that challengers don’t have much of a fighting chance, and, therefore, voters don’t have much of a choice?

Who knows? Anyway, come Nov. 8, meet the new legislators. Same as the old legislators.