On the presidential side, New Jersey’s nearly last place in the primary lineup essentially made the contest meaningless in the selection of a Republican presidential nominee from the get-go. But to make it even more meaningless, Mitt Romney is the only Republican candidate still actively running for the nomination. However, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were still on the ballot.
So given the largely symbolic nature of the New Jersey presidential primary, as a former regional coordinator for Newt Gingrich, I chose to cast a symbolic vote. I voted for Newt Gingrich as my choice for President, but I voted for the Romney slate of delegates to the national convention. I did so because even though I prefer Gingrich, I am confident in Mitt Romney. He was my first choice for President in the 2008 primaries and I believe that if given the job, he will be an exceptional President. My favoring Gingrich in this now symbolic primary came from my belief that Newt is more reform minded than Mitt and I like that. But with Newt out, I am solidly behind Mitt Romney and if Mitt wins the presidency, I believe he will at least deliver a degree of reform. The type of reform that would be defined by his change in the direction we are headed in under President Obama, ad at the moment, that’s good enough for me. But my symbolic presidential primary ballot was cast the way it was to send a message that will probably not be heard. That message was that I want to see Romney buck the establishment more and be more open to enacting reforms of government and our tax code.
In the other statewide races, New Jersey Republicans got to pick a nominee to oppose incumbent, liberal U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. That race has barely been a contest. It has pitted unknown Republicans David Douglas Brown, Bader G. Qarmout, and Joe “Rudy” Rullo, against long time State Senator and former Republican State Committee Chairman Joe Kyrillos.
The sad fact is that most New Jerseyans didn’t even know there was a primary for U.S. Senate, and the media nationally as well as locally has barely acknowledged that there was a primary because it has been projected from the start, that Kyrillos would be the nominee. Kyrillos has the support of Governor Chrisite and the entire Republican establishment, including Mitt Romney, whose 2008 presidential campaign featured Kyrillos as its State Chairman. Between that lock on the state G.O.P., access to significant fundraising and the combination of all his opponent’s lack of name ID and their own financial resources, made this hardly a race.
I will be supporting Kyrillos over the lesser of two evils, Bob Menendez, in the general election, but I won’t say which of the 4 U.S. Senate Republican primary candidates I voted for today. That was another symbolic vote.
My vote for a Republican nominee for the House of Representatives was however anything but symbolic.
Here I cast my vote against a candidate much more than for the other.
The 4th District congressional primary was much like the statewide U.S. Senate race. It wasn’t much of a race at all. It received no attention because 18 term incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Smith was running for a 19th term and there was no reason to assume that he would not be able to win it the same way he won each of his previous elections. But as for myself, even though it can be said that Chris Smith is a conservative, he is not the best that conservatives could or should offer.
Over the years, Smith has became naturally complacent and on several recent occasions he has voted for such things as federal Cap-and-Trade policies and other liberal oriented schemes. But more than that, after 32 years in the same office, Chris Smith has lost all prominence as a conservative leader. The type of leader who is in the forefront of creating conservative solutions and advancing the conservative ideology. He lacks innovation and has become a fixture of Washington, D.C., just another notch in the belt of Beltway politics. If any T.E.A. movement sentiments ever existed, it needed to exist in this race. But it didn’t and as a result the virtual unknown and under-financed candidacy of Terrence McGowan had no chance. So come November when the ballot will offer me a choice between Republican Chris Smith and the Democrat’s sacrificial lamb, Brian Froelich, I will cast a write-in vote for a conservative Republican. Maybe Terrence McGowan.
At the bottom of the ticket I supported the unopposed Republican incumbents for County Sheriff and Board of Chosen Freeholders who are almost certain to win reelection in my heavily Republican vote rich Ocean County.
All this made for a very blasé voting experience that left me feeling quite unproductive. I knew that each of my votes were not imperative and would not determine who the inevitable nominees would ultimately be. But that does not mean my voting experience lacked any excitement.
As I stepped toward my voting booth, an elderly woman had exited it and she was arguing with the poll workers who did not know what to do with the voting machine because even though the machine was set for her to cast her ballot, she refused to vote. For the befuddled poll workers, this created a problem. If she did not press the button to cast her ballot, they would have to reset the machine and fill out a complex series of forms and file a cabinet filled with red tape to account for the uncast ballot.
While the wayward voter discussed the matter with one of the poll workers who stood aside the voting booth, she stated from behind me, “I’m not voting for Obama. He can go to hell”.
The elderly voter was a registered Democrat. She came out to vote against President Obama. But what she did not understand was that in her Party’s primary, President Obama was unopposed. So when she stepped in to the voting booth, she was offended and refused to vote.
After I cast my own ballot, the voter was still airing her grievance with the poll workers and so I interjected and explained that as a Democrat, she was being given the opportunity to nominate the people she wanted to represent her Party. I further explained that if she was a Republican, she could join me in nominating who we wanted to represent us in the Republican Party and to replace the President with.
We soon took our conversation outside of the polling place where in the parking lot I explained the process to her further and also made her aware of the fact that even though President Obama was unopposed for the nomination, she could have written in a name, a fact that she found much more appealing than just walking away. But she was still quite frustrated and went on to tell me that we have to get rid of Obama.
As we parted ways, I realized that I was much more pleased by my voting experience than I expected. I had unethusiastically set out to cast a bunch of symbolic and protests votes that I knew would ultimately do more to make me feel good than make an actual difference. But in the end what I walked away with was an optimistic feeling about at least the future results in the presidential general election because you know it’s not good for Democrats when a lifelong Democrat voter stands behind you at the ballot box and declares that their Party’s nominee should go to hell.
And if that wasn’t pleasing enough for me, as my partner and I got in our car to leave the polling place, he told me how he voted It turns out that despite any prior discussion about how we would vote, he cast his ballot the same exact way that I did, and for the same reasons. So who knows? Maybe there are more people out there who took the time to cast similar symbolic and protest votes? I know at least a few Democrats did.
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