NJ Democrats Must Unify Says Political Expert [AUDIO]
Half of voters (50%) rate the job Christie has been doing as 'good' or 'excellent,' and 51% say the state is 'headed in the right direction,' while 39% say it's 'on the wrong track.' Democrats control both houses of the legislature, but how can they stem the tide of Christie's popularity?
Montclair State University political science professor Dr. Bridgid Harrison thinks the key word for Democrats should be 'unity.' She explains, "This Governor has been so able to masterfully shape the agenda that the leadership that is in office right now really hasn't been able to combat that. Until they're able to kind of at least keep up with the chess moves that the Governor is making they're going to continually have to respond to his policies."
"They (Democrats) continue to be surprised by the Governor and it makes them look like they're unprepared," says Harrison. "It also makes them look like they're not unified and without that unification there really is no cohesive voice of opposition and I think that many New Jerseyans would support an alternative."
State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver began the year with a strong show of unity. Both leaders were able to garner enough votes to pass a bill to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey, but Christie vetoed it. Oliver and Sweeney are also on the same page when it comes to raising the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50.
A fracture in the Democratic Party came in recent weeks when the Senate and Assembly put out competing property tax reduction plans. Sweeney is proposing legislation that would allow middle-class homeowners to take 10 percent off their property taxes as a direct income tax credit. Not to be outdone, Assembly Democrats have unveiled a 20 percent property tax relief credit for New Jersey's middle-class and lower-income homeowners.
The Assembly plan would be partially funded by a millionaires tax increase. The Senate plan doesn't include that. Christie says he'll veto any tax hike and says the Assembly plan, "is dead."
"The millionaires tax has really devolved into a publicity stunt," says Harrison. "It is a constant reminder that, yes Democrats are looking out for the interests of working and middle-class people, but to waste precious time that could be used to solve the property tax crisis in this state by continuing to harp on this measure that we know the Governor will not sign to me seems to be base-level politics."
Harrison says most New Jerseyans do support a millionaires tax, but the political reality is that right now the primary issue is property tax relief.
"There is such a diversity of opinions in the Democratic Party," says Harrision. "There is no one political leader of the Democratic Party right now."