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Saturday, June 22, 2024

National, State and Local Temperature Checks

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National

Amidst the presidential primary season coming to an official end, the general election contest is heating up, and this weekend saw an unusual addition to the campaign roster: New Jersey.


Former President Donald Trump (R-FL) held a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Saturday evening. The resort town, which is typically quiet in the winter and spring months, hosted tens of thousands of people on the boardwalk in what appears to be a targeting of one of the nation’s more reliably blue states.


No Republican has carried New Jersey since George H. W. Bush (R-TX) in 1988. The closest margin in the state since then has been just seven points for John Kerry (D-MA) in 2004.


Despite New Jersey’s obvious blue hue, it’s not one of the most lock-solid states for Democrats, compared to Massachusetts or Vermont. New Jersey is considered a “high floor-low ceiling” state for Republicans, in that the GOP can usually rely on about 40% of the vote in any given statewide election, but typically finds trouble traveling north of that figure.


John McCain (R-AZ) registered at 41.61% in 2008, and New Jersey is one of the few states in which President Obama (D-IL) improved upon his prior margin in 2012. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) only garnered 55% of the vote in 2016, equating to a fourteen-point-margin. Joe Biden (D-DE) improved the margin slightly to 57% in 2020, with Trump still hovering at 41%.


The Wildwood rally took place in Cape May County, the southernmost county and one of the most staunchly Republican in the state. Since 1896, Cape May County has only backed four Democrats for the White House, most recently Bill Clinton (D-AR) in 1996.


Trump held a rally in Wildwood in January 2020, just before the COVID-19 Pandemic completely changed the shape of the race. Trump’s rally here last weekend is likely predicated on historically-low approval ratings for Biden, as well as an April 2 poll from Emerson College showing Biden with just a seven-point lead in New Jersey in a two-way race. His lead shrinks to just five points when third-party candidates are considered.


Trump’s location of Wildwood also allows crossover among multiple pricey media markets, as well as likely draw from the rest of New Jersey, the prime swing state of Pennsylvania, and other supporters from nearby New York, Delaware, and Maryland, all blue-leaning states that have been part of the “blue wall” for decades.


Wildwood is also located in the state’s Second Congressional District, which encompasses most of South Jersey. Although the area is Republican-leaning, the district backed State Senator and dentist Jeff Van Drew for Congress in 2018. Van Drew, then a Democrat, joined the Republican Party in 2020 and has been twice re-elected.


While some estimate the crowd size as 30,000, Lisa Fagan, a spokeswoman for the City of Wildwood, told the Associated Press that she estimated between 80,000 to 100,000 attendees based on having seen “dozens” of other events held at the Boardwalk.


New Jersey Republicans are not as conservative as those from other states. New Jersey is also home to a diverse, college-educated population with significant white-collar work in the urban areas. A massive swing would be required for Trump to add the state to his column, but at the very least, his rally seems to be a push to expand the map for future Republicans.


In other general election news, Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has secured ballot access in the valuable prize of Texas. Accounting for forty electoral votes, Kennedy’s campaign says that they obtained double the amount of required signatures to gain ballot access. Texas required more than 113,000 signatures.


RFK now has access in fourteen states, most recently adding Ohio, Michigan, and Oklahoma to his column. He is ballot-eligible in 187 electoral votes’ worth of states.


Three states held primaries for the presidential election and for other statewide or federal offices on Tuesday night. Two cities held mayoral elections.


In Maryland, Biden and Trump each cleared their respective party primaries, with each carrying all twenty-three counties and the independent city of Baltimore. As of press time, Trump had 80% of the vote to now-suspended Nikki Haley’s (R-SC) 20%. His lowest margin came in the form of Montgomery County, the state’s most populous, with 69.1% to Haley’s 30.9%, with 52% of precincts reporting.
Biden took 86.3% of the vote with 72% of votes counted, with the “Uncommitted” ballot option taking 10.4%. His lowest county margin was 73.9% in northeastern Cecil County.


Trump took all thirty-seven delegates available, and Biden looks set to take all ninety-five.


However, Maryland was home to one of the most contentious primaries of the 2024 season, in terms of the Democratic Primary for the open U.S. Senate seat. In a slight upset, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) defeated Congressman David Trone (D, MD-06) for the Senate nod. Alsobrooks’ core base was within Baltimore and the D.C. collar counties. Alsobrooks faces wildly popular former two-term Governor Larry Hogan (R), who cleared his primary with ease.


Maryland has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1980. Being one of the deepest blue states, some have viewed Hogan’s monumental task of flipping it red as virtually impossible. However, Hogan leads Alsobrooks by almost seven points in an average of eight polls taken since November. Democrats have won every Senate race in Maryland with more than 60% of the vote since 1986, with the exceptions of 1994, 2006, and 2012.


Trump and Biden also swept the Nebraska Primary, with Trump taking 79.9% of the vote in his, and Biden taking 90.4% in his. Trump took all thirty-six delegates and Biden looks on track to claim all twenty-nine. Trump looks on par to sweep all ninety-three counties, while Biden lost one, Logan County, as of press time. Now-suspended Congressman Dean Phillips (D, MN-03) won Logan County with five votes out of nine cast.


Congressman Don Bacon (R, NE-02) easily fended off a primary challenge from his right to advance to a re-election campaign. Nebraska’s Second Congressional District is one of the most evenly-divided in the nation, centered on Omaha and the surrounding areas. A self-proclaimed moderate, much to the chagrin of some in the GOP, has warded off stiff challenges in difficult years.

Trump and Biden also easily took the West Virginia primaries for their respective parties. Trump won with 88.4% of the vote to Haley’s 9.4%, while Biden took 70.1% of the vote in his. West Virginia’s Democratic Primary was more chaotic than usual, as dark horse candidate Jason Palmer (D-MD) took 11.7%. Palmer gained national fame for winning the American Samoa Caucuses in March, becoming the first candidate to deny an incumbent President a primary win since 1980. Palmer endorsed Biden in April but fell short of suspending his campaign outright.


Trump and Biden swept all fifty-five counties. Trump captured all thirty-two delegates and Biden appears likely to take all twenty.
Finally, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) is likely to flip the open Senate seat of retiring blue dog Senator Joe Manchin (D). Justice, who is wildly popular, will face Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott in November.

State

Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is taking an official State trip to Europe this week to address international policy summits.
“From fighting the climate crisis to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, New York continues to lead the world with innovative solutions to global challenges,” Hochul said in a statement. “Our goal for this trip is simple: strengthen international connections that will create economic opportunities for New Yorkers and a cleaner future for the next generation.”


Hochul’s itinerary begins with a three-day summit in Italy and the Vatican to participate in the Pontifical Academy of Science and Social Science. She will then travel to Ireland to meet with government officials and business leaders in Dublin, culminating in her keynote address on the “Future of Cities” at the inaugural Global Economic Summit in Killarney.


A spokesperson for the Governor says that her trip is being financed by taxpayers money, as it is official business of the State of New York. However, the spokesperson also said that any costs outside “normal reimbursable expenses will be paid for the Governor’s own personal funds.”


Meanwhile, Hochul and the MTA have announced the rollout of sixty new all-electric buses that will run on certain routes in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. The MTA is expecting 205 more electric buses by the end of 2025. About 280 charging ports are slated to be installed at depots around New York City, with a second phase of work bringing another 220 charging stations.


The MTA is also developing an on-the-street charging system that will allow buses’ batteries to be charged while in transit.

Local

Congressmen Nick LaLota (R, NY-01), Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), and Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park) sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) calling on them to reverse the transfer of seventeen air traffic controllers from New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON/N90) in Westbury to Philadelphia.


“For months, I have been explicitly clear that the FAA’s blatant disregard for the personal and professional lives of our air traffic controllers is unacceptable. These Long Islanders deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity they have earned through long hours of doing everything they can to keep our communities safe,” said LaLota. “These workers ensure the safety and efficiency of our skies, and their families deserve stability, not upheaval. I urge the FAA to rescind their ill-considered reassignment plan and prioritize the welfare of our invaluable air traffic controllers.”


TRACON/N90 air traffic controllers are responsible for air traffic and safety for Newark Liberty, JFK, LaGuardia, and MacArthur airports.

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.