In the days leading to Election Day on Tuesday, Assembly Republican leaders said they were working to regain control of that house. That didn’t happen.

Polling location in Manalapan
Polling location in Manalapan (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

The GOP has lost three seats for sure and if the votes hold up in another district, it would be a loss of four. National polls show Republicans want an outsider to be their presidential candidate, but political experts said it would not have helped the Assembly GOP if they had recruited and promoted outsiders.

“We see that outsider dynamic certainly in the race for president on the Republican side, but I’m not sure that kind of need for an outsider really has an effect on these legislative races. I’m not sure that dynamic is transferable,” said Ben Dworkin, a political science professor at Rider University.

Democrats got out more voters than Republicans and also had a lot more special interest cash being spent on their behalf.

“Money doesn’t always win you the race, but it certainly is the kind of thing you never you want to go in with not enough of,” Dworkin explained.

Democratic Assembly candidates also had district-specific messages.

  • In District 1 they talked about keeping a center for the developmentally disabled open and a Democrat unseated a Republican.
  • In District 2, the message was about opposition to expanding casinos outside of New Jersey, but both candidates were reelected because they said the same thing.
  • In District 11, the message was about the slow pace of Sandy recovery and the two incumbent Republicans lost.
  • In District 16, the talk was about a gun control bill that Gov. Chris Christie vetoed. One incumbent Republican in that district was reelected, but the other trailed a Democratic challenger by 30 votes.

Another political expert agreed that outsider candidates wouldn’t have helped Assembly Republicans. He said they lost seats for other reasons.

“It wasn’t the outsider/insider issue, but it was that sense of being dissatisfied with your own party that was at play here in New Jersey,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “I think a lot of Republicans looked around and said, ‘You know what? I’m not happy with my own Party.’ They feel that their own party doesn’t have backbone.”

Voters want candidates that they believe in and can trust that they’re going to stand for what they say they’re going to stand for, Murray said.

“What we’re seeing here in New Jersey is a group of legislators who basically get their hats handed to them when they vote unanimously to support a bill, and then the governor turns around and pulls the rug out from under them and says, ‘I’m vetoing this bill. This is no good,’ and they all have to scramble to come up with some sort of explanation about why they’re changing their vote and they won’t vote to override the veto,” Murray noted.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.