Monday, October 20th, 2014

It's Election Day -- Go Vote

A GOP mailer targeting a Democratic Assembly candidate received a Pants on Fire for its outrageous accusations
A GOP mailer targeting a Democratic Assembly candidate received a Pants on Fire for its outrageous accusations

If your weekend was busy cleaning campaign fliers out of your mailbox and listening to endless candidate robocalls on your voicemail, take heed: Election Day is upon us.

In case you missed it, the Truth-O-Meter was also busy this weekend, reviewing two campaign claims and vetting a Gov. Chris Christie statement about picking up legislative seats in today’s elections.

But before heading to the polls today, let’s review our election-themed rulings.

New Jersey Republican State Committee claim

On Saturday, flames shot out of the Truth-O-Meter with a rare Pants on Fire ruling for a GOP mailer ad against District 11 Assembly candidate Vin Gopal, a Democrat.  The ad  takes aim at Gopal, a Long Branch resident, alleging a connection to disgraced former Assemblyman Joe Vas. Gopal was a 20-year-old student at Pennsylvania State University when he worked to earn college credit for four months as a campaign manager on Vas’ unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2006.

Earlier this year, Vas was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison on corruption charges.  Law enforcement told PolitiFact New Jersey that Gopal had no connection to Vas’ criminal activities.

Christie claim

The governor received a True on his claim published Sunday that in the past 48 years, James McGreevey was the only governor whose party gained legislative seats during a sitting governor’s first-term midterm election.

All 120 seats in the state Legislature are on the line today. Of those, Democrats hold 71 and Republicans hold 49.

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, PolitiFact New Jersey found.

Even though legislative seats have been gerrymandered in favor of Democrats, according to Christie, the Republican governor expects to witness history today, with his party gaining seats in the Legislature.

Lewis claim

Olympian Carl Lewis isn’t on the ballot today, but that hasn’t stopped the former Democratic state Senate candidate from a bit of campaigning – against incumbent Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington.

The Truth-O-Meter gave a Mostly False ruling to Lewis’ claim that Allen "took" away constituents’ health care even though she and her husband receive taxpayer-funded health insurance.

In July, Allen abstained from restoring $7.5 million in state funding for family planning services but that cut only affected a limited number of Burlington County residents. Across the state, many New Jerseyans have been able to receive services from other health centers. And even if Allen voted to restore the money, her vote would not have been enough to change the outcome, PolitiFact New Jersey found.

On the campaign trail

Just as the ad against Gopal rated a Pants on Fire, and Lewis’ statement earned a Mostly False, most other political claims circulating around New Jersey haven’t done well against the Truth-O-Meter. With the exception of Christie's weekend statement, the highest rating of any election-themed ad or statement we checked is Mostly False. Here’s a rundown of those ads:

-- The New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, claimed that Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, is to blame for the state’s income tax rate – the highest nationwide, causing jobs to leave the state. We found that the top income tax rate in New Jersey has increased twice during Sweeney’s tenure, but not enough to make it the highest rate in the country. And, experts told us that one person can’t be held solely responsible for job loss. Ruling: False.

-- The New Jersey Democratic State Committee sent a mailer to Sayreville residents, claiming that Mayor Kennedy O’Brien, a Republican, was having secret meetings with big developers. The ad also claimed that more than 22,000 building permits have been issued during O’Brien’s 12-year tenure -- implying that there’s a lot of construction going on in the borough. The Truth-O-Meter found no evidence of secret meetings, and confirmed that only 1,240 of those 22,081 permits were for new home construction. Ruling: Mostly False.

-- Republican State Senate candidate John Driscoll Jr. put out a TV ad blaming Democratic incumbent Robert Gordon for a property tax exemption for The Prudential Center in Newark. We found that Gordon did vote in 2008 to exempt the Newark Housing Authority, which owns the arena, from paying property taxes there, but the exemption had no direct effect on voters in Bergen and Passaic counties -- the ad’s target audience. Ruling: Mostly False.

-- A mailer sent to homes in Atlantic County by the Democratic state committee on behalf of incumbent state Sen. Jim Whelan accuses his Republican challenger, Vince Polistina, of collecting "nearly $70,000 in taxpayer-funded salaries -- plus a government pension."

But the Truth-O-Meter found that Whelan not only collects a state pension, he also collects two government salaries -- as a legislator and as a public school teacher. Polistina is paid $69,000 for two part-time, public positions. He is in the pension system, but not collecting a pension. Ruling: Mostly False.

It’s in the e-mail

In coming weeks PolitiFact New Jersey will put out a newsletter for readers about our fact checks and what’s coming up for the Truth-O-Meter. If you’re interested in receiving the newsletter, drop a note with your email address to PolitiFact New Jersey Editor Caryn Shinske at cshinske@starledger.com. You can also follow us at @PolitiFactNJ on Twitter or find us on Facebook.

To join the conversations about these rulings and others, go to NJ.com.