Most years, people are bombarded with candidates and campaigns the week before the general election, but Hurricane Sandy has all but blown that away for many South Jersey residents.
Tuesday is Election Day, but it may not feel like it.
Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo and Democrat Cassandra Shober, one of his challengers for the 2nd Congressional District seat, live about a mile from each other in Ventnor, and both fled the city as Sandy closed in.
LoBiondo stayed at the Vineland Ramada, said his assistant, Jason Galanes. He returned to his South Somerset Avenue home when it was safe.
Shober said she left early Sunday, staying first with friends, then with her parents and later at her parents’ Philadelphia apartment. She returned Friday to find 2 feet of water in her home on North Newark Avenue.
“Our house, we really can’t stay in it,” she said, although she said the damage was minimal compared to other people. “It’s just, you know, it’s a mess.”
In the wake of Sandy, the two have all but suspended their campaigns, focusing on relief and recovery efforts.
“The election is going to continue, and while we have to be very sensitive to what happened, we are working to make sure people exercise their right to vote,” Shober said.
Throughout the campaign, LoBiondo, a nine-term incumbent, has led Shober by a double-digit margin in Stockton Polling Institute polls. With little money, Shober has campaigned hard across the 2,000-square mile district that includes all or parts of eight counties.
LoBiondo has focused on his accomplishments. Shober has attacked him on the district’s highest-in-the-state unemployment and characterized him as out of touch with his constituents. LoBiondo has outspent Shober, $1.1 million to less than $48,000.
Four independent candidates also are vying for LoBiondo’s seat: Frank Faralli, David W. Bowen Sr., John C. Ordille and Charles Lukens.
State officials are taking steps post-Hurricane Sandy to ensure everyone can vote, essentially treating storm-displaced residents as overseas voters.
Office hours have been extended to get more absentee ballots into the hands of voters. Displaced residents also will be allowed to email and fax their ballots for the first time.
First responders and other people staying outside their voting districts during polling hours because of the storm can vote at any polling place by provisional ballot.
The general election ballots this year include school board candidates for the first time in more than a century. State lawmakers passed legislation in January that permitted towns to move the elections from April, though in doing so towns gave up the right to vote on school budgets that did not exceed the state-mandated property-tax cap.
The measure proved overwhelmingly successful, with 468 of the 541 districts with elected school boards choosing to move their elections to the fall. In The Press of Atlantic City’s coverage area, every town except Atlantic City, Hammonton and Bridgeton will vote for school board representatives Tuesday.
As a result, budget questions have meant a number of towns, including Egg Harbor and Galloway townships in Atlantic County and Dennis and Lower townships in Cape May County, are seeing closely fought races with far more candidates than seats.
State voters will be asked two ballot questions. One seeks approval for the state to borrow $750 million for its colleges and universities to expand; the other asks whether state judges should have more taken from their pay to cover pensions and benefits. Polls suggest the two questions are likely to garner more yes than no votes.
New Jersey residents will choose a U.S. senator, too.
Incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez is a Democrat who former Gov. Jon S. Corzine appointed in January 2006 to fill the Senate seat Corzine vacated when he became governor. Menendez won election that November and is seeking his second six-year term in office.
Menendez’s Republican opponent, Joseph M. Kyrillos, faces long odds to break a streak: The state has not elected a Republican U.S. senator since 1974.
Kyrillos, a state senator from Monmouth County, has run as a moderate Republican and touted his work with fellow Republican Gov. Chris Christie, but he has lagged Menendez in October polls by double-digit figures.
Menendez has said he would like to bring clean-energy and high-tech jobs to the state, and he supports President Barack Obama’s health care initiatives. He has outspent Kyrillos, $11.7 million to Kyrillos’ $2.8 million, as of the latest available reports.
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