The Purple Garden: New Jersey is a Complicated State with Complicated Politics

There are no easy answers when it comes to right- or left-wing in the Garden State.

Many Americans who have no real experience with New Jersey harbor an inaccurate – and often unflattering – perception of the state, thanks to popular media like The Sopranos and Jersey Shore.

More interesting than exaggerated television depictions is that the Garden State is far from politically straightforward.

Gov. Phil Murphy is a Democrat. Both of the state’s senators, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, are also Democrats. The state is reliably blue when it comes to presidential elections. When the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision repealing Roe v. Wade came down, New Jersey codified a woman’s right to choose in the state’s constitution.

But politics aren’t so cut and dry on the left side, according to P. Kenneth Burns, the New Jersey correspondent for WHYY FM, a Philadelphia-based public radio station.

Reclaim Your Vote 2023: Black To the Ballot Box

The northern half of the state identifies with liberal New York; the southern half identifies with swing state Pennsylvania, and the state’s midsection can go either way. As such, anyone who tells you that they know how New Jersey will go politically is guessing at best, Burns said.

“New Jersey leans blue, but it has purple tendencies,” he said. “When you have Democrats and Republicans standing together in Atlantic City saying they don’t want migrants sheltered at the AC Airport, that’s not uncommon.

All the seats in New Jersey’s Legislature – 80 in the State Assembly and 40 in the State Senate – are up for grabs in the 2023 elections. The legislature is currently under Democratic control, but Murphy barely won reelection against his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, due to the latter’s ability to turn out the more conservative South Jersey vote.

That might help swing control of the legislature, but only if the Republicans play their cards right, Burns said. South Jersey – especially Atlantic County – was heavily influenced by former president Donald Trump and his casino businesses.

“They may be able to finish the job,” he said. “But only if they nominate ‘good Republicans,’ meaning that they’re not loyal to Trump.”

Taxes are always top of mind for New Jersey voters at the polls because, according to the United States Census, the state’s homeowners pay the highest property taxes in the nation.

This has led to a lack of affordable housing in the state because property owners pass the state’s high property taxes in the form of increased rents, according to Toni Hendrix of the NAACP’s New Jersey State Conference.

“Voters are starting to pay attention to the role of state government,” she said. “They’re not just waiting for national elections. They’ve realized the importance of state government and how kitchen table politics impact us on a daily basis. Taxes have been a concern for a very long time.”

To make sure that the voices of these concerned citizens are heard, the New Jersey NAACP started a contactless voter registration program allowing voters to register via cell phone. Because the app contains a portal managed by the Board of Elections, voters will also be able to get other information on the election, including the district in which they’re registered.

In 2021, Gov. Murphy signed a bill into law permitting early, in-person voting. From Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, voters can go to the polls early. To encourage early voting, the United Black Agenda Coalition – of which the NAACP is a member – will organize "Souls to the Polls" events around the state.

To participate in one of these events, visit the United Black Agenda website. The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 7 elections in New Jersey has already passed.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.