GOP Primary Race Boosts Voter Turnout

At Friendship Firehouse in Woodbury, John Tierney exits the booth as the site's 50th voter, fifteen minutes before the polls closed Tuesday, June 4, 2013. In the last general election, about 500 voted. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer

Now that the final vote tallies are in, the summary report shows the contested GOP primary in Burlington County last week attracted more than twice as many voters as the norm.  Still, the turnout was dismal.  Voters where are you?

In the last three years, only nine percent of registered voters, on average, have bothered to go to the polls to vote in the June primaries.  Really?  In actual numbers, that's roughly 26,000 out of 270,000 registered voters, and a population of 450,000. 

This year, it was no different, overall.   

Except in the GOP primary.  

A loosely organized tea party put up a small fight, and 23 percent of the party's 66,000 register voters came out.  The party loyalists handily crushed the insurrection.   

There were virtually no contests in the Democratic primaries for county and state offices - so most of the county's 93,000 registered Democrats stayed home.   When there's no race it usually means the party bosses and/or committees handpicked the candidates and no maverick tossed a hat in the ring.  This year 12 percent of Dem voters showed up.   

Now, Christie has decided to schedule a second primary - in August of all times - to nominate candidates who will replace Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate.  How many will come out to pull a  lever when the sun is blazing and vacation season is in full gear?

It's hard to predict.  Rarely, if ever, has there been an August primary, and it's begun to generate heat of a different sort.   

More than likely, the turnout reports will paint a dramatically different picture this time.  The Dems may actually make the effort to show up Aug. 13,  while the Republicans may become the couch potatoes.  

That's because Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt - all contenders - have entered the Democratic primary.  It could become quite a fight, tapping into the emotions of party loyalists and politicians who already are choosing sides.  

On the flip side, only a couple of Republicans have decided to run becaue the state has elected only Democratic senators in the last 40 years.  Steve Lonegan, a right-wing conservative whom Christie soundly beat in a primary race Christie in '09, is giving it a shot as is Alieta Eck, a Somerset County doctor.