The Democrats’ resounding win in last week’s elections are great for the party — as it is as firmly in control of New Jersey politics as it has ever been, just two years after a much-closer-than-expected gubernatorial race called that into question.
Gaining seats in the Legislature does not necessarily mean gaining support for Gov. Phil Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, however. At least, that’s the feeling of Eric DeGesero, the thoughtful leader of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey.
This isn’t about the governor looking to get rid of gas stoves, he said, this is about people being able to pay their bills, something DeGesero feels will get harder with some of the plan’s proposed mandates when it comes to electrification of buildings (and homes) and a push toward the purchase of more electric vehicles.
“You could say that stoves and cars are culture war issues, but I don’t think so,” he said. “Unlike all of the other culture war issues — school boards and abortion — energy issues are pocketbook issues. They are affordability issues, or what I should say are lack-of-affordability issues.”
The issues are resonating with legislators. Even key Democratic legislators, DeGesero said.
He points to John Burzichelli, the former assemblyman who is now state senator-elect in District 3, a district the Democrats flipped.
“John Burzichelli, then candidate Burzichelli, was the first person to testify at the DEP EV mandate hearing this past fall — and he testified in opposition to it,” DeGesero said.
DeGesero noted that Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Turnersville), who won a Senate seat in District 4 in South Jersey, also has been strong in his opposition to energy mandates — and was the sponsor of the bill opposing the mandate for the electrification of buildings that is similar to a bill that another senator, Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.), sponsored.
And DeGesero points out that Sen. Joe Lagana (D-Paramus) was against electrification mandates, too — meaning there is opposition in South, Central and North Jersey.
“In four of the most contested legislative districts, all four winning Democratic legislative slates were all on the side of opposing the governor’s mandates for electrification,” DeGesero said.
DeGesero is confident all of these elected officials will maintain their positions and not bow to potential party pressure.
“I haven’t seen anything to indicate they would change their stance on these issues,” he said.
Not that DeGesero takes comfort in any of this.
“I’m always worried,” he said.
But he’s hopeful — hopeful that real discussion can occur about the Energy Master Plan and its impact on the ratepayer as well as the environment.
“The election was about affordability,” he said. “And all issues involving energy are about affordability. Democrats are increasingly saying, ‘We need to hear more on this.’
“And that’s a good thing.”