Primary Elections

Christine Todd Whitman
The Record
May 29, 2009

On today’s primary election day, it is important for all New Jerseyans to remember the importance of voting and how this simple democratic exercise directly impacts not only the health and vitality of our state’s political process, but also our wallets and our livelihoods. For all the talk about state taxes and corruption, we need to recognize that the public policies we disparage come from the political leaders we elect.

In many ways, an election is like any consumer transaction. As the old adage goes, we as consumers “get what we pay for”. As voters, we get who we elect. If nothing else, New Jerseyans should take a hard look at the leaders we have elected over the years and consider whether or not we are getting our vote’s worth. Some New Jerseyans may be satisfied with their elected leaders, but I hear even more grumblings around the state of those who are unsatisfied. All of these voters should participate in Tuesday’s election since the candidates we choose now may win in the fall and ultimately lead our state for years to come. If we fail to participate now, we forfeit our right to complain when our leaders make poor decisions.

We have seen over the years how the results from competitive primaries have had major consequences in the general election in November. Imagine if Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney had won primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively – the entire 2008 election may have had a completely different outcome. Or if Howard Dean had maintained his early lead and defeated John Kerry for the 2004 Democratic nomination. Or if John McCain defeated George W. Bush in the 2000 primaries and served as president for eight years. So much of our nation’s history is directly linked to the man or woman who serves as president and, as a result, it is the electoral victories in primaries that ultimately determine the course of history.

The same is true in New Jersey where competitive primaries have made or broken the political careers of promising candidates. Although the only competitive statewide primary on today’s ballot is for the Republican nomination for governor, heated primary campaigns are well underway for a variety of legislative, countywide and municipal seats. For this reason, we as voters have a major responsibility.

Aside from my partisan affiliation, I have another bias that informs my decision-making on which candidates to support. While New Jersey has a rich history of longtime public servants who have contributed to our state over many years, it is the new, young, fresh faces on the political scene who often propose unique solutions to our problems. The energy these new candidates bring to their campaigns rejuvenates our political process and forces other candidates to perform better. Regardless of partisan politics, I encourage New Jersey voters to consider supporting candidates who may be new to the political process, and as a result bring a different set of skills and experiences.

The admonition to vote may seem trite, but it will remain a vital one until the day that New Jersey voters recognize that they do not have to stand for elected officials who abuse the public trust. For too long in this state we have been shamed by officials who have abused our respect and our funds only to be voted into office again. Until residents recognize that we have the power to change these outcomes, and act at the ballot box to stop these actions, the reminders to vote must continue.

We have the power to change the direction of our state – if we simply turn out and vote.