It has been over 40 years since New Jersey has elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate. It was talked about in 2012 and again in 2013 and now being talked about again in 2014.
The first in a string of Republican losses during their drought would occur in 1976 when Senator Harrison Williams defeated David Norcross. Even as New Jerseyans favored Republican President Gerald Ford in the general election; they preferred the Democratic senator by more than 600,000 votes.
Two years later in 1978 is when Senator Clifford Case was defeated in a Republican primary by a more conservative member of the party. Case might have still lost in the general election and with the margin of victory being a little under 250,000 votes; it may have been a similar outcome. Who beat Case? That would be Jeff Bell. The same Jeff Bell who has reemerged in New Jersey over 30 years later. In that general election, Bill Bradley would defeat Bell.
Bell was part of a four way primary this year with Richard Pezzullo, Brian Goldberg, and Murray Sabrin. In the end, like in 1978; Bell will be the party's nominee and face another popular opponent. Bell received 30% of the vote compared to Pezzullo's 26%, Goldberg's 25%, and Sabrin's 19%.
In the wake of his primary win, Bell is optimistic going into the general election against Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) stating;
The Republican Party is a major party in New Jersey. It won the last gubernatorial race by 22 percentage points. So anything can happen. I think a lot of people who predicted I wouldn't win, which was virtually everybody, underestimated the difference between party activists — the type of people who are on the county committees – and the typical voters. The typical voters were very open to the message I had in this race. I got a lot of resonance on it.
Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, paints the rough road ahead for Bell:
Unless Cory Booker has plans to strangle a man with his bare hands or something like that, (the Republcian candidate) doesn’t have a chance.
Bell is not too far off from Steve Lonegan, Booker's general election opponent in 2013; but seems more poised and even-keeled at running a campaign. While it likely will not result in a different outcome based on the state of the race at the moment, it sets up what could be a race featuring strong contrasting opinions and limited attention. It looks like the 42 year drought for the Republican is likely to continue at least for the foreseeable future regardless of its trend of electing both Democrats and Republicans as governor during the last four decades.