The Unsung Candidates

So, with redistricting behind us, we’re headed toward Election Day with a 6-6 House delegation of incumbents seeking reelection. That means we have 6 chances to increase the democratic majority in our delegation. Sure, some of these chances are better than others. But Presidential years are funny – you might remember we picked up a seat in 2008.

With polls showing both President Obama and Senator Menendez potentially posting gaudy margins of victory here, there should be cause for optimism. And, more importantly, there is good reason to support our democratic congressional challengers in every District. (You remember the 50-State-Strategy, don’t you?)

You’ll hear from others (and I’ll write separately) about the two challengers given the best chance to win this year – NJ-3’s Shelley Adler and NJ-7’s Upendra Chivukula. And, wow, I hope they do!

But, today, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the four other democratic candidates who are doing their part to bring the 50-state-strategy to life. When they campaign against their opponents, they keep them and their money in-district, and by extension, help democratic candidates everywhere. Win or lose, they deserve some appreciation (and some help):

In NJ-2: Cassandra Shober faces the same headwinds other challengers here have faced: an incumbent with an overrated record on labor, and a conventional wisdom that a democrat can’t win. But, the reality is that this is a district democrats can win and Obama may win, and hardly the worst place to be running for Congress in a Presidential year. Add in that Cassandra has a great background and a core of hardworking grassroots supporters, and who knows – surprises can happen.

In NJ-4: Brian Froelich has perhaps the toughest assignment, going against an incumbent whose radical anti-choice stance never seems to dent his personal popularity. But, could this year’s odd national focus on abortion rights finally shine the spotlight on a Congressman whose positions are more in line with Akin and Mourdock than NJ suburban voters? When the incumbent was first elected 32 years ago, he was given little chance to win. Surprises have happened.

In NJ-5: Adam Gussen has gotten beaten up here and elsewhere for raising too little money to compete against Scott Garrett. And, some of that is deserved. But, I know Adam is campaigning hard, he’s got a compelling story to tell about himself, and about the winnability of this race. And, let’s face it, someone like Garrett deserves to be challenged as fiercely as possible. I really want a surprise to happen.

In NJ-11: John Arvanites has waged a surprisingly aggressive campaign in a district that was radically redrawn as a result of redistricting. The Morris County Democrats who’ve suffered mostly alone under the generations of the incumbent and his family holding this seat have welcomed the addition of large swaths of Essex and Passaic County to help flip this one. Still the underdog, the final outcome of this race may be the hardest to predict. Supporters hope a surprise does happen.

And that’s the rub – New Jersey’s Congressional elections have become extraordinarily predictable. We need to create some surprises.

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