KIYC: Nearly 40 percent of NJ lawmakers were appointed to office

Posted: Updated:
KIYC: Nearly 40 percent of NJ lawmakers were appointed to office KIYC: Nearly 40 percent of NJ lawmakers were appointed to office

All 120 seats in the New Jersey legislature are up for grabs Tuesday and, as usual, most incumbents are overwhelmingly favored to win reelection. But a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds nearly 40 percent of those incumbents were never elected to office to begin with, raising questions about whether New Jersey's election rules gives political parties too much power at voters' expense.

You could say Senator Kristin Corrado (R - Wayne) and Senator Colin Bell (D - Northfield) are running for reelection Tuesday, except that neither was elected. Both were both sworn into office last month. They were chosen by their parties to replace state lawmakers who resigned, rather than getting elected to office. That's the same way nearly four in ten current state lawmakers began their careers in Trenton.

That first appointment can give a politician an edge that lasts for decades, analysts say, because once a state lawmaker gets in office, they're rarely voted out. A Ballotpedia study of state legislative races nationwide found that in the past 40 years, incumbents nationwide have never won less than 90 percent of the time.

"The incumbent name tends to be more familiar, or voters may know more about the incumbent, or the incumbent may have helped them in some way," says John Weingart, assistant director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers. 

Here in New Jersey, the list of lawmakers who got their start being appointed, rather than elected, includes some high-powered names, including both Senate Democratic Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Junior. In the Assembly, both Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, and Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, were initially appointed to office.

Bramnick disputes the notion that being appointed to office initially gave him a significant edge, although he agrees legislative races are not competitive enough. He points to the way the state's legislative map is drawn.

"These districts are so gerrymandered that in some districts, a Republican can never win, in some districts, a Democrat can never win," Bramnick says.

The other problem, according to Weingart, is that there are no perfect alternatives. New Jersey once held special elections to fill vacant seats, as 25 states still do. Voters opted to change that system decades ago, believing those elections were too expensive.   

"There'd be the expense to the state of running the election," Weingart says, "and then a current Assemblyman would often be elected to the Senate and there'd be an empty Assembly seat, and you'd have to have another special election." 

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • GOP closer to big win with House tax vote; Senate unclear

    GOP closer to big win with House tax vote; Senate unclear

    Friday, November 17 2017 7:10 PM EST2017-11-18 00:10:55 GMT
    (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., left, leads applause for House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, during a news conference following a vote on tax reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., left, leads applause for House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, during a news conference following a vote on tax reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

    The House passage of the bill Thursday on a mostly party-line 227-205 vote also brought nearer the biggest revamp of the U.S. tax system in three decades.

    The House passage of the bill Thursday on a mostly party-line 227-205 vote also brought nearer the biggest revamp of the U.S. tax system in three decades.

  • Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says NJ set for 'comeback' on his watch

    Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says NJ set for 'comeback' on his watch

    Thursday, November 16 2017 10:27 PM EST2017-11-17 03:27:50 GMT
    Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says NJ set for 'comeback' on his watchGov.-elect Phil Murphy says NJ set for 'comeback' on his watch

    New Jersey Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says the state is poised to be home to the "comeback story" of the nation.

    New Jersey Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says the state is poised to be home to the "comeback story" of the nation.

  • Kellyanne Conway comes to New Jersey to push GOP tax plan

    Kellyanne Conway comes to New Jersey to push GOP tax plan

    Tuesday, November 14 2017 7:57 PM EST2017-11-15 00:57:02 GMT
    Kellyanne Conway comes to New Jersey to push GOP tax planKellyanne Conway comes to New Jersey to push GOP tax plan

    President Donald Trump's adviser and New Jersey native Kellyanne Conway came to the state to promote the GOP's proposed tax overhaul.

    President Donald Trump's adviser and New Jersey native Kellyanne Conway came to the state to promote the GOP's proposed tax overhaul.

  • Kane in Your CornerMore>>

  • Consumer Alert: Scholarship dos and don’ts

    Consumer Alert: Scholarship dos and don’ts

    Friday, November 17 2017 3:32 PM EST2017-11-17 20:32:32 GMT

    November is National Scholarship Month, but while in search of help paying for college, there are some dos and don’ts to follow.

    November is National Scholarship Month, but while in search of help paying for college, there are some dos and don’ts to follow.

  • KIYC: Animal cruelty charges filed against AHS director

    KIYC: Animal cruelty charges filed against AHS director

    Wednesday, November 15 2017 6:49 PM EST2017-11-15 23:49:02 GMT
    Animal cruelty charges were filed against the director of the Associated Humane Societies animal shelter in Newark.Animal cruelty charges were filed against the director of the Associated Humane Societies animal shelter in Newark.

    The executive director of the troubled Associated Humane Societies animal shelter in Newark has been charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty.

    The executive director of the troubled Associated Humane Societies animal shelter in Newark has been charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty.

  • KIYC: State Senate holds hearing on NJSPCA practices

    KIYC: State Senate holds hearing on NJSPCA practices

    Tuesday, November 14 2017 10:11 AM EST2017-11-14 15:11:57 GMT
    State Senate holds hearing on NJSPCA practices.State Senate holds hearing on NJSPCA practices.

    A state Senate committee held a hearing at the state Capitol Monday to discuss the future of the NJSPCA, which serves as the state’s “animal police” and has been the subject of a yearlong Kane In Your Corner investigation.

    A state Senate committee held a hearing at the state Capitol Monday to discuss the future of the NJSPCA, which serves as the state’s “animal police” and has been the subject of a yearlong Kane In Your Corner investigation.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 5 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login, create an account or subscribe to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."