Why establishment candidates have an unfair advantage

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Letters to the editor Letters to the editor To the editor:

Another New Jersey primary has come and gone, and par for the course, opposition candidates were effectively rolled by the incumbents, losing by much larger margins in the Soprano State than candidates running against incumbents in other states.

In the 2nd District, of the candidates offering an alternative to the machine-endorsed picks for Congress and freeholder, none did better than 18 percent. 


One reason is that in New Jersey, the Republican and Democratic Party establishment can link together or “bracket” – a large field of candidates for the various political offices – and essentially direct your eyesight to their “column” and their shared ballot slogan such as, “Regular Atlantic County Republican” (or Democrat) organization.

The well-funded political parties know from previous elections who votes in a primary and both parties reach out to them by phone banking.

Those of us not familiar with the candidates and the vast array of offices being contested, but feeling like it’s our duty to vote, simply find the one name that is familiar, like Corey Booker (Democratic primary), and most often, we’ll vote everyone directly above or below, ignoring non-machine candidates off to the side on the election ballot.

Slogans are not included on election ballots anywhere else except in California. But in California, a slogan really is a slogan. For example, in 2012, the slogan for U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was simple and elegant: “businesswoman.”

In New Jersey the shared slogan is the linchpin, allowing establishment candidates to bracket. It’s permitted by New Jersey’s Title 19 election law. Non-machine candidates, if they’re fortunate, find one or two others to bracket with, using slogans like: “Liberty and Prosperity Republicans.”  Still, the column looks bare compared to the establishment’s column.

Candidates in other states, including every nationally known leader in Washington, are separated – “bracketed” if you will – by office sought, and compete only with those candidates running against them. It gives some of them fits.  Occasionally one of them loses.

For the 100 million or so voters everywhere but New Jersey, there’s no way to run a finger straight down a column of endorsed candidates. But we can in New Jersey.

That’s cheating, in one man’s opinion. But who’s listening?

Gary Stein

Mullica Township

Gary Stein has been on the ballot many times, most recently as an independent candidate for Assembly in 2013. 

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