TRENTON, N.J. — Republican leaders like their chances of picking up seats in the Legislature with the popular Gov. Chris Christie at the top of the ticket this fall.
But a leading Democrat says, "don't count on it."
All 120 seats in the Senate and Assembly are up on Nov. 5, along with the governor. Both houses are controlled by Democrats.
"I've already done campaigning on behalf of Republican legislative candidates," Christie said, when asked recently how much he'll be stumping for down-ballot Republicans. "Every time I show up someplace I'm in somebody's legislative district, and when I do they happen to come most of the time."
District maps favor incumbents, lessening the chances of Christie's coattails on legislative races.
New Jersey has 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, which also increases the likelihood of the Legislature remaining in Democrats' hands.
Republican leaders Tom Kean Jr. in the Senate and Jon Bramnick in the Assembly said the GOP will be competitive in every district where the outcome was decided by fewer than 10 points in the last election.
Assembly Democratic leader Lou Greenwald said all Democratic incumbents are likely to win.
Democrats control the Senate by 4 seats and the Assembly by 8 seats.
Several unknowns complicate the forecast.
Election-watchers wonder whether a special U.S. Senate vote on Oct. 16 will suppress turnout for the general election three weeks later, and what percentage of Democrats will come out for Christie's opponent, Sen. Barbara Buono, the underdog candidate who tops the Democratic ticket.
A ballot question to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour could increase turnout among Democrats, though the effect could be marginal. A recent poll showed a majority of voters from both parties support raising the wage and incorporating future annual increases, though support among Democrats is 20 points stronger.
Christie set the special election to succeed U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in office in June, three weeks before his own re-election, drawing criticism that he did not want to risk lowering his own vote total by having a federal race top the ticket. That contest features popular Democrat Cory Booker and conservative Republican Steve Lonegan.
The most-watched legislative races are in Districts 1, 2 and 3 in Atlantic, Cumberland and Gloucester counties, District 14 in Mercer and Middlesex counties and District 38 in Bergen County. District 18 will elect a new senator to succeed Buono, of Metuchen.
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