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Eagleton Institute of Politics
Eagleton Institute of Politics

Research/Publications


Research/Publications


published in print 10/22/07        NJBiz online  www.njbiz.com

The New Look of the Next Legislature

by Ingrid Reed

There is no need to wait for the outcome of the Nov. 6 election to know that there will be a dramatic change in the makeup of the Legislature.

More than 30 percent of the members in both the Senate and the General Assembly will be new.

Imagine a club with 40 members that lost 14 of them at once for reasons such as ill health, personal complications, pressure to leave by others wanting their turn, or simply burnout These departing longtime members were experienced, and most held leadership positions. If nothing else, the new members replacing them will be dramatically younger and ambitious to fill the open leadership roles. That is the New Jersey Senate going into the election.

Now imagine another club with 80 members that lost 25 members. A similar percentage change but different reasons for members leaving. About half left to try to get in the other club. A third left because continued membership was denied them-they lost the Primary--and the rest decided it was time to leave. That’s the scene in the Assembly.

Oon top of these changes, when the clubs convene, both will have many more women members.
The idea of new faces in Trenton recalls a successful set of post-war Broadway shows designed to introduce new talent. I recall listening to a recording of New Faces of '52 that introduced Eartha Kitt. But the faces weren’t the only new part: the material was also new. One of Kitt’s songs was "Monotonous." Will New Jersey’s New Faces of '07 not only perform well, like the New Faces of Broadway, but also present new material? Or, just more "monotonous?"

In legislative terms, this means asking whether their arrival will bring about change or whether the newcomers will just be more of the same, only younger and representing a different gender balance. Will they produce new laws to address old needs, raise difficult questions, advocate for fair funding formulas and challenge the status quo? Will their performances engage citizens, generate new trust in public officials and foster bipartisan collaboration?

As I write this column, I think of the loss of David Rebovicb, a friend and colleague who was managing director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University and who probably had some thoughts about this new cohort of legislators. While David was best known for his cogent and insightful brief quotes about New Jersey politics, his columns on PoliticsNJ.com were even better - always engaging, informative and candid about our state’s politics. The column he published before his death on Oct. 12 seemed to be David's attempt to once again confront legislative candidates with the daunting issues before the state and urge them to tell the voters what they would do about them.

I believe David saw the potential of the New Faces of'07 to meet his high expectations, and was using his column to encourage them to perform in new and different ways. We should follow his lead and encourage them to do the same.