OCEAN COUNTY – More than half of registered voters in Ocean County went to the polls on Nov. 6, the most in any midterm election, officials said.
County Clerk Scott Colabella said it was a historic election in terms of turnout.
“I have never seen this kind of volume in a midterm election,” he said. “It was like a presidential election.”
To put it in perspective, there were 381,491 registered voters for the 2014 midterms, he said. Of these, 37.92 percent turned out.
In 2018, there were 408,860 registered voters. Of these, 225,392 – or 55.13 percent – voted. This doesn’t even include the provisional ballots, which were still being counted when this article was being published.
Colabella suggested that the reason for the increase is a populace that is more aware of national headlines. Whether they were for or against what’s happening in the country right now, they went to the polls to voice their opinions.
The county had advanced notice that it was going to be one for the record books, he said. In 2014, they issued 12,000 mail-in ballots. In 2018, they sent out 40,000, and 31,033 came back. That gave the county the heads up to put out more staff and supplies for a large turnout.
George Gilmore, head of the Ocean County Republicans, also spoke of the large turnout.
“I think control of Congress was a factor,” he said, as well as the Senate race. “I think the President was a factor.”
Whether you approve of the President Donald Trump or not, there were a lot of people who went to the polls because of it. Ocean County is largely a Republican stronghold.
Trump won Ocean County by 91,929 votes. It was a significant margin. (Trump got 179,079 votes. Hillary Clinton got 87,150 votes.)
While the number of voters tells one story, victory margins are more important, Gilmore said. They demonstrate how well the campaign worked, and how well the candidate was able to reach voters.
It’s telling that Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin had the largest victory margin in the state in Ocean County, he said.
Hugin received 139,766 votes. Senator Robert Menendez received 74,566 votes, but did better in other counties and won the election.
To further put the vote totals into perspective, Hugin received more votes in Ocean County than Kim Guadagno when she ran for governor, and Chris Christie the last time he ran for governor.
In 2017, there were 97,737 votes for Kim Guadagno and Carlos Rendo. There were 56,279 votes for Phil Murphy and Sheila Oliver.
In 2013, Ocean County was responsible for 125,781 of Chris Christie’s votes. He ran with Kim Guadagno as his running mate. Their opposition, Democrats Barbara Buono and Milly Silva, received just 37,930 votes.
Hugin even did better than 2012’s numbers. This was the last time that Menendez ran, and it was also a presidential election. Menendez received 99,362 votes. His Republican challenger, Joe Kyrillos received 132,413 votes. This figure is more in line with what Hugin received this year, 139,766, and there wasn’t a presidential election to boost totals.
Blue Wave, Red County
Although Democrats nationwide flipped many congressional seats, Ocean County largely remained Republican. Many towns didn’t even have Democrats on the ballot. One notable exception is in South Toms River, where the Democrat candidates for mayor and two council members won.
Although many national news sources ignored the 3rd District Congressional race on election night, it was so close that Rep. Tom MacArthur only conceded on Nov. 14, while provisional ballots were still being counted.
MacArthur received 76,998 votes in Ocean. Andy Kim received 46,861 votes. The provisional vote totals were still being compiled as of press time.
The last time MacArthur was on the ballot was in 2016, when he received 95,147 votes. His challenger, Frederick LaVergne, received 41,766 votes. Remember that this was the same year as the presidential election, when there are more voters.
In 2014, he received 45,518 votes from Ocean, compared to Aimee Belgard, who received 27,232. So, he received about 30,000 more votes in 2018 than in 2014. Kim received about 20,000 more than the 2014 contestant.
After the midterms, Rep. Chris Smith is the only Republican left in the House of Representatives from New Jersey. His 4th District straddles Ocean and Monmouth counties. He received 49,830 votes in Ocean. Challenger Josh Welle received 24,130 votes.
In 2016, Smith received 62,148 votes. His challenger, Lorna Phillipson, received 22,045 votes. Again, this was a presidential election, so numbers increase.
In 2014, Chris Smith received 36,888 of the votes in Ocean. His challenger, Ruben Scolavino, received 11,816. So, again, Smith received more than 20,000 votes this year than in the most comparable year, 2014. Welle’s vote total, 24,130, was twice that of the Democrat in 2014, and was more in line with the 2016 election.
Even Seth Grossman, who lost the endorsement from the National Republicans after making negative statements about diversity, did well in Ocean County. He received 10,972 votes. His challenger, Jeff Van Drew, received 6,999 votes.
Grossman and Van Drew were competing over the second Congressional District, vacated by retiring Republican Frank LoBiondo. During the presidential election in 2016, LoBiondo received 13,268 votes. His challenger, David Cole, received 5,882 votes. In 2014, LoBiondo received 8,031 votes in Ocean. His challenger, William J. Hughes Jr., received 3,438 votes. So, Grossman did better than LoBiondo did in the last midterm.
The difference in vote counts between congressional districts have to do with the size of the districts in Ocean County. The 4th District, for example, has a lot of space in Monmouth County. The second district is stretched out over eight different counties. This article only looks at Ocean County numbers.
Wyatt Earp, chairman of the Ocean County Democrats, was unable to be reached for comment by press time.