The potential impact of a Trump victory on New Jersey politics


By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Donald Trump’s election to the presidency raised questions about future policies affecting health care and immigration and the potential impact his victory will have on New Jersey politics.
“This is a democracy, the people cast their ballots and they made their choice known,” said Princeton Republican chairman Dudley Sipprelle in an interview Wednesday. “After eight years, I think it’s time for a change.”
Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, suggested that Mr. Trump embrace campaign finance reform. He said such a step would enable Mr. Trump to appeal to his base of supporters and help him with the rest of his agenda by diminishing the influence of monied special interests to affect public policy in Washington.
In terms of that policy agenda, Mr. Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, the signature legislative effort of the Obama administration. But Princeton Councilwoman Heather H. Howard, a health-care policy expert who previously worked in the Bill Clinton administration, said Wednesday that it was “too early to tell” what a Trump victory means for the law.
Ms. Howard, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, said repealing it is “much harder” to imagine, pointing to how 20 million people got coverage through Obamacare.
Immigration is another question mark. Sanctuary city towns like Princeton have large numbers of illegal immigrants, with Mr. Trump having stated that he would seek to deport all roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
“We are going to remain strong in our effort to fight for immigrant rights here in our area and around the country as much as we possibly can,” said Adriana Abizadeh, executive director of The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, an advocacy group based in Mercer County.
On Wednesday, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert joined Superintendent of Schools Stephen C. Cochrane, clergy and others in issuing a statement about the contest:
“In the aftermath of one of the most divisive elections in our country’s history, it is important for us to come together as a town and recommit ourselves to the values of inclusion, diversity, and opportunity,” their statement read. “Much can happen at the local level, and we all have a role to play in shaping our community as a place of welcome and support for neighbors in need.”
The group called a community meeting for Thursday evening at the Public Library, after The Packet’s press deadline.
Yet the Trump victory has the potential to impact state politics, said one long-time observer of New Jersey’s political scene on Wednesday.
Ingrid Reed, formerly of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, raised whether Gov. Chris Christie, a former Republican presidential candidate turned Trump supporter, would join the Trump administration in some capacity or finish his term of office.
“I don’t think we know,” she said by phone.
Yet for his part, Mr. Dworkin offered a series of reasons for why he thought Mr. Christie would stay where he is.
On one hand, he said Mr. Christie is not popular with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump. As U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in 2005, Mr. Christie prosecuted Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles, for tax evasion and other offenses that wound up sending the elder Kushner to prison. Press reports earlier this year said Jared Kushner helped keep Mr. Christie from being Mr. Trump’s vice presidential pick.
Mr. Dworkin said he also thought that any position requiring Senate confirmation would open the door for Democrats to question Mr. Christie about the Bridgegate scandal. He also said that Mr. Christie, still needing to put his other children through college, might look to work in a lucrative private sector job once his term of office is up.
Should Mr. Christie leave for Washington before his term is up, that would mean Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno would take over and have a head start in her potential candidacy for governor in 2017, Ms. Reed said. Ms. Guadagno has sought to raise her profile, even breaking ranks with the governor by opposing raising the state gas tax to fund transportation projects.
State Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli (R-16), who is running for governor to succeed Mr. Christie, had been critical of Mr. Trump during the campaign going so far as to call him a “charlatan” whom he could not vote for. With the election over, he sought to strike a conciliatory note.
“Trump won the election fair and square,” Mr. Ciattarelli said by email Thursday. “We are all Americans first and foremost. With that in mind, it is now time for all New Jerseyans, and especially elected officials at all levels, to work together to improve our communities, our state and our country.”
Mr. Trump is seen as winning an historic upset victory to defeat Ms. Clinton, the Democrat, who led in most polls heading into Election Day. Mr. Sipprelle declined to say if he had voted for Mr. Trump, but he believed the president-elect was able to connect with voters.
“He understood something, he made a connection that escaped most people,” Mr. Sipprelle said.
Though Mr. Trump fared poorly in Mercer County, one of his biggest backers in Mercer, if not the state, lives on Alexander Road in West Windsor. Lee Eric Newton, who had Trump lawn signs in front of his home, pointed to how social media was a major tool that the Trump campaign and its supporters used to get the candidate’s message out.
“We went around the mainstream media,” he said. “Roosevelt used the radio, Kennedy used the television and Trump used social media networking and reality television.”
During the campaign, Mr. Newton could be found “Trumping” for Mr. Trump in downtown Princeton from a chair on Nassau Street. Despite receiving some harsh treatment from opponents, he said the election outcome left him feeling “vindicated.”
“I knew he was going to win,” Mr. Newton said.