Even if nothing changes, Tuesday’s election would be a historic win for Republicans. Gov. Chris Christie said in a recent radio interview that decades of history show governors lose seats in their first midterm election. But he said this year will be different. “Over the last 48 years, every governor at the midterm of his first term or her first term has lost seats in the Legislature, with the exception of Jim McGreevey in 2003, who was working off a newly gerrymandered map,” Christie said Oct. 26 on WCBS 880 AM.
Christie said the Republicans face a gerrymandered map this year, “gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats”
“But despite that we’re going to make history. You will not see the Republican party lose seats … in two weeks. And my prediction is you’ll see us gain seats,” he said.
All 120 seats in the state Legislature are on the line Tuesday. Of those, Democrats hold 71 and Republicans hold 49.
As Tuesday approaches, Christie — and his party — have repeated in public speeches and internal memos the claim about historical midterm losses.
PolitiFact New Jersey found it’s true.
Since Richard Hughes, a Democrat, took office in 1962, the governor’s party has lost seats in the Legislature in the governor’s first midterm election. McGreevey, also a Democrat, is the only exception.
Some New Jersey governors faced worse losses than others. William Cahill lost 26 Republican seats in the 1971 election. Fellow Republican Christine Todd Whitman lost two seats in 1995.
In 1991, Republicans gained control of 31 Democratic seats in Jim Florio’s first — and last — midterm election. Fellow Democrat Jon Corzine lost one legislative seat to Republicans in 2007 in what would also be his only midterm election.
McGreevey picked up six Democratic seats in the state Legislature in 2003. He was the first governor to gain seats since Robert Meyner, a Democrat, did in the 1950s.
This trend is not unique to New Jersey.
Since Harry Truman became president in 1945, the president has lost seats in Congress in the midterm of his first term, except George W. Bush in 2002. More in Politifact.