NJ Voters Weigh In On Local Elections, State Constitutional Amendments

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Just minutes after the polls closed in New Jersey, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker won re-election over Republican challenger Jeff Bell.

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, Booker has now secured his first full 6-year term in Washington. The former Newark mayor was elected just last year to serve the remaining year-plus of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg‘s term.

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He faced off against Republican Jeff Bell, a former speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan who moved back to the state this year to seek the seat.

“I’m rolling up my sleeves and I’m getting to work,” he said Tuesday night.

Booker had a clear advantage heading into Election Day with flush campaign accounts and the advantage of running in a state that has favored Democrats at the polls in Senate elections.

Bell’s low-budget campaign was concerned mostly with calling on the country to return the dollar to the gold standard.

Booker’s win keeps both Senate seats — Democrat Bob Menendez holds the other post — in the hands of the Democratic Party.

As a first-year freshman, Booker, 45, struggled to move legislation in the Senate, but has had some success, including the passage of a traumatic brain injury program for veterans as part of a larger VA measure.

A major focus of Booker’s campaign was his efforts on bipartisanship.

“I want you to know that I’m not going down to Washington to be New Jersey’s Democratic senator, I am going down to Washington to be New Jersey’s United States,” he said Tuesday night after the results came out.

“I’m not going down to Washington to be a partisan,” Booker said in a recent interview. “I feel really blessed to be in the position and really excited about the future.”

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

New Jersey voters are faced with a plethora of other decisions this Election Day, including decisions on three new faces in the state’s congressional delegation and several amendments to the state constitution.


New Jersey voters elected three new members of Congress on Tuesday, each of them to fill a seat left vacant by a member of their own party.

Republican Tom MacArthur, who spent $5 million on his own campaign, defeated Democrat Aimee Belgard in the 3rd District, the most watched congressional district in the state.

State lawmakers are moving up to the U.S. House of Representatives in two other districts with open seats: one the first woman from New Jersey to be elected to federal office in 14 years; the other the brother of one of the state’s most powerful political figures.

Bonnie Watson Coleman won the 12th Congressional District seat over Republican Alieta Eck. The seat was open because Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat, did not seek re-election.

The last woman to represent New Jersey in Congress was Republican Marge Roukema, who left office in 2003.

Democrat Donald Norcross, a state senator who lives in Camden, won both a regular and special election to represent the 1st Congressional District in the Philadelphia suburbs, defeating Republican Garry Cobb, who is best known as a former linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles.


Republican Scott Garrett is keeping his seat in Congress representing northern New Jersey.

He turned back Democrat Roy Cho on Tuesday to retain his 5th District seat. Cho was a first-time candidate and lawyer who had fundraising help from former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley.

Garrett has served six terms representing the district that runs from New Jersey’s northwestern corner to the Hudson River.


Voters were also asked to add amendments to the state constitution.

New Jersey voters approved amending the state constitution to eliminate the right to bail for those accused of crimes.

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The measure is a major step in the state’s plan to overhaul the bail system. The changes are intended to keep those deemed dangerous locked up as they await trial while letting low-level suspects free even if they can’t afford bail.

Proponents say the changes would keep the state safer, help people accused of nonviolent crimes and reduce jail crowding.

Backers of the bill include Republican Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers from both parties.

But opponents are wary, saying that while the intentions may be honorable, the amendment is flawed because it doesn’t spell out a right to a speedy trial for those detained without bail.

New Jersey voters also  approved dedicating some tax revenue to buying and preserving open space despite opposition from Christie.

The constitutional amendment focuses on the state’s corporate business tax.

Initially, it moves money now dedicated to other environmental causes to preserving open space. But starting in 2019, it increases the amount of the tax dedicated to open space and other environmental concerns.

That allocation is to jump from 4 percent to 6 percent.

Christie said he would vote against the measure. He says it’s irresponsible to pass an amendment that restricts the government’s ability to make future budget decisions.

New Jersey voters have repeatedly approved open space funding plans over the last half century.

Kerry Butch of the League for Women Voters said hundreds of thousands of voters don’t bother answering ballot questions, WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported.

“A lot of people skip the ballot questions,” Butch said. “They feel like they’re not easily understood.”

But Butch said the ballot questions are important to answer.

“It really has to do with your money and how taxes are going to be spent,” Butch said.


The seaside tourist town of Belmar was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy two years ago.

By the next spring, the town was the first in New Jersey to finish rebuilding a storm-wrecked boardwalk. The storm recovery has been a major issue in the mayoral race there.

Democrat Matt Doherty was seeking re-election against Republican Councilman Jim Bean.

Doherty’s plan to rebuild two pavilions on the boardwalk was rejected on a referendum. Opponents, including Bean, say the plans were too elaborate and expensive and were made at the expense of fixing flooding at Silver Lake, near the ocean.


New Jersey’s best-known politician, Gov. Chris Christie, isn’t on the ballot this year.

But as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he has been a key figure nationally, campaigning and raising money in gubernatorial races.

Thirty-four of them are to be decided Tuesday.

Christie has traveled across the country, and notably to Iowa and New Hampshire, the states with the first presidential caucus and primary in 2016.

He has not said whether he’s running, but he certainly has not ruled it out.

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