97 Years Ago Today: 1st Woman in Congress. Today: Zero Women in NJ’s Congressional Delegation.

Ninety-seven years ago today Jeanette Rankin, a Republican and lifelong pacifist from Montana took her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first woman ever elected to Congress.

Today, there are no women in NJ’s congressional delegation. And though women may find lawmakers who represent them well, there are no women whose footsteps can be followed to Washington. And emerging women candidates now training at Ready to Run or Teach a Girl to Lead or emergeNewJersey, women are missing from that powerful club on the Hill.

But there’s a good chance we’ll change that this year. And the best opportunities are with Democratic candidates. Below the fold, an evaluation of where we stand a chance to send our Jeanette Rankin, or maybe even our Shirley Chisholm to the U.S. House. What do you think?

CD12 Open seat.: Despite the aims of candidate Andrew Zwicker, who hopes that lightning will strike twice and launch another plasma physicist to Congress from the 12th, like the departing Rush Holt, who emerges from the same Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory that brought us NJ’s scientist-congressman, the reality is one of the 3 best-known Dem candidates is more likely to make it to Washington. And each one represents diversification of the delegation that would make it look more like all of us. Asm Upendra Chivukula would be the first Indian-American NJ ever sends to Congress. But increasingly the race is winnowing down to a contest between two women legislators: Asw Bonnie Watson Coleman and Sen. Linda Greenstein.

Both are good. I wish to hell they were running in separate districts and not against each other. But if we really want women to compete at the highest levels, they will run against each other. So, good.

Today, BWC’s campaign released an internal poll that shows her in a statistical dead heat with Greenstein. [Read the poll.] Her campaign says that’s significant because an “internal Greenstein poll, released about one month ago, had Watson Coleman down 10 points with very low name recognition.” So, momentum. But the poll finds most voters (38%) undecided, according to the findings; more in that category than any candidate has. With the primary countdown at 62 days, it’s anybody’s game, likely to hinge on money and momentum. BWC filed, by far, more petition signatures than any of her Dem opponents (916 BWC, 427 UC, 363 LG). She also enjoys the endorsement of 2 of CD12’s 4 counties, with  Greenstein and Chivukula each getting the line in their home county. Another factor to consider: NJ has never sent an African-American woman to Congress. If elected, Bonnie Watson Coleman would be New Jersey’s Shirley Chisholm – 46 years after Chisholm was elected in NY. Primary winner is likely winner in the general in this Dem district.

CD12’s chance to send a woman to Congress: EXCELLENT

CD3: Open seat. Aimee Belgard took office as a Burlingon County Freeholder last year. This year, she was already running a substantial campaign against the GOP’s football star in Congress Jon Runyan when Runyan announced his departure. That’s when Tea Party darling, failed U.S. Senate candidate & former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan started shopping for real estate. It took a while for Ocean and Burlington Republicans to get their act together; they’re settling on Tom MacArthur, former Randolph mayor (and another North Jersey carpetbagger), an insurance industry multi-millionaire who can easily self-finance. Still a factor is Lonegan, who has demonstrated the ability to whip Tea Party white folks into a lather. Belgard is the only major homegrown candidate in the race, and has strong support from DCCC & EMILY’s List.

CD3’s chance to send a woman to Congress: GOOD (we’ll know more closer to November).

CD7: Janice Kovach, the state Democrats’ longtime Secretary, Vice-Chair of the Hunterdon Dems, and Mayor of Clinton (and ruler over an all-GOP Council in right-wing Hunterdon), failed to generate enough petition signatures by filing deadline to get on the ballot. She says she is appealing the decision.

CD7’s chance to send a woman to Congress: UNDETERMINED

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