Burlington County’s Democratic freeholders may get a sizeable boost from voters turning out for House Candidate Andy Kim on election day.
A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday that found Kim and Rep. Tom MacArthur locked in a tight race also found lopsided support for Kim in the third congressional district’s westerly county, with voters there backing Kim by a 17-point margin (46% to 29%).
“I think what we’re seeing is an expectation that there will be a pretty sizeable Democratic turnout in the Burlington portion of the district. In most places, that will take place in the towns that are already controlled by democrats, but there will still be some other places where there will be a significant number of democrats in a town with Republicans,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth poll.
“So, there could be an impact on those county races.”
Burlington has increasingly become a more favorable battleground for Democrats. Demographic shifts in the county have long favored Democrats, but the party saw its first big win there last year, when two of the county’s incumbent Republican freeholders were ousted by Democratic challengers.
To win a majority, Democrats will only have to win one of the five-member board’s two seats that are up for election this year.
Though he acknowledged the races wouldn’t be easy, Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton was confident that his freeholders would beat out their Democratic challengers.
“There’s no question that it’s a tough county,” Layton said. “You look at the demographics, they’ve been changing over the years. I’ve said this before to other reporters – we win because we’ve successively proven that we’re not like other Republicans in the country. We’re not Washington D.C. Republicans, we’re not Trump Republicans. We’re different republicans.”
Layton said that decreases in taxes and spending under the Republican-controlled party government have led voters in the district to split the ticket in the past – Freeholder Latham Tiver was elected in 2016 by a 3.5-point margin despite former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton winning the county by almost 15 points.
Layton said voters would vote much like they did then.
“They will absolutely split the ticket,” Layton said. “They’ll split the ticket a lot sooner. We have a lot of positive news coming out of the Hugin for Senate race, which I think is not accurately being reflected in a lot of the polling you’re seeing.”
But, while swathes of voters in the county didn’t vote down the line in the past, that could change this year.
“The thing that we’re seeing is the type of voter that’s coming out these elections – looking at the special elections that we’ve held – are really die-hard Democrats that don’t vote in midterms but only vote in presidential elections, which means they tend to be straight-ticket voters,” Murray said. “You’re going to get a lot more straight-party Democrats than you’re used to in a standard midterm.”
Even so, Layton said that polls conducted in August, more than two-and-a-half months before election day didn’t worry him.
Still, he acknowledged an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and Democratic State Sen. Troy Singleton, whose district is entirely in Burlington County, agreed on that point.
“I think broadly there’s a large enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans during this cycle, and I think we’ve seen that in races all across the county, but in Burlington County, if the polling is to bear itself out to what it looks like on election day, I think that bodes well for the two Democratic candidates.”
Layton said it’d be him and his fellow Republicans to bridge that gap before November – a hard task, but not an impossible one.
“All,” he said, “Is not lost.”