Thanks to the Donald, Democrats challenging Republican incumbent congressmen have new opportunities

The November election for congresspersons could yield better than expected results. Normally incumbents hold their seats, and there are few or no surprises. However, there is already high hope for a win in Congressional District  (CD) 5, and the possibility of wins elsewhere. Currently there are six Republicans and six Democrats in our delegation.

Trump’s descent in the polls, his campaign disarray, and his obnoxious comments could signal new opportunities. Some disaffected Republicans could sit out the election reducing the Republican pool. Some could decide to vote for Clinton instead and even cast votes for a Democratic congressperson. Also candidates in NJ cannot win just with the support of their party. There are far more Independents than there are Republicans or Democrats. Because of Trump more Independents disaffected by him or who lean Democratic might come out to vote and increase the pool for the Democratic challengers. The more Dem challengers can show how the Republican incumbents support some of Trump’s outrageous positions the better.

In the stronger Republican CD’s Republican incumbents have less to fear. However, of these six districts there are two where there are more registered D’s than R’s. In one district the difference is about 3% and in all the others the R’s are ahead by about only 10%. This is considerably different from some of the districts with incumbent Democrats where the D’s are overwhelmingly ahead of the R’s.

In the six Congressional races in 2014 where the Democrats lost, they were defeated by an average of 38,000 votes. Three of the Democrats lost by less than the average. These closer races might be considered as targets for turning them from red to blue, with the aid of Trump screwing up, volunteers, donors and a strong get our the vote effort.

  • In CD 3 the challenger is Democrat Frederick LaVergne. In the 2014 congressional race Republican Tom MacArthur, after spending a ton of his own money, defeated Aimee Belgard by only 18,000 votes. In the recent primary with two Democratic candidates, the Dems received 7,000 more votes than incumbent MacArthur. He was the only NJ Republican Representative to attend the Republican convention, which could be seen as tying him closer to Trump than his peers. Registered voters: D’s: 149,112 and R’s: 136,970.
  • In CD 5 the challenger is Democrat Josh Gottheimer. Incumbent Republican Scott Garrett in 2014 won by 23,000 votes against Roy Cho, but in the recent primary Gottheimer received 1,000 more votes than Garrett. According to the Cook Report, this district which for years was considered ‘Solid Republican” is now categorized as “Leans Republican.” Gottheimer is well funded and is leading an aggressive campaign while Garrett is increasingly under fire for his archconservative policies. Registered voters: D’s 138,540 and R’s 142,243.
  • In CD 7 the challenger is Democrat Peter Jacob. In 2014 incumbent Leonard Lance won by 36,000 votes against Janice Kovach. However, in the recent primary Jacob got 13,000 more votes than the incumbent, but the three Republicans combined garnered 13,000 votes more than the challenger. Registered voters: D’s 136,289 and R’s: 155,716.

In the three other CD’s where the Dems lost by more than the average, the battle may be tougher.

  • In CD 2 the challenger is David Cole. In 2014 challenger William Hughes lost by 42,000 votes to Frank LoBiondo. In the recent primary challenger Cole lost by only 6,000 votes to LoBiondo and with two Dems in the race there were 2,000 more votes for the D’s than the R’s. Registered voters: D’s 136,194 and R’s 124,455.
  • In CD 4 the challenger is Lorna Phillipson. In the 2014 race incumbent Chris Smith got 64,000 more votes than challenger Ruben Scolavino. In the June primary incumbent Chris Smith garnered only 1,000 more votes than the challenger, but with a second Republican in the race the R’s received 6,000 more votes than the challenger. Registered voters: D’s 125,252 and R’s 139,538.
  • In CD 11 the challenger is Joseph Wenzel. In the 2014 election incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen garnered 44,000 votes more than challenger Mark Dunec. ln the recent crowded primary the two Republicans gained 10,000 votes more than the three Democrats. Registered voters:  D’s: 145,965 and R’s: 162,029.

Incumbents have numerous advantages, but in our current crazy presidential race Trump’s failures could provide down ballot harm to Republicans, encourage Independents to vote Democratic, and open up the the possibility for otherwise unexpected Democratic additions to our congressional delegation.

General Election Results November 2014 (12/02/14)
Primary Results June 2016 (08/08/2016)

Statewide Voter Registration Summary (08/05/2016)

Comments (4)

  1. deciminyan

    Unfortunately, in CD-3, Tom MacArthur is a shoo-in. Despite his support for Trump, his opposition to same-sex marriage, and his tepid record on the environment, his money and his well-oiled outreach program will allow him to coast to victory against an ineffective opponent. In the best possible scenario for LaVergne, he will carry Burlington County by a slim majority (even though the county committee is providing only token support) and will lose in Ocean County by a large margin. This will propel MacArthur to a real contender for Menendez’s senate seat in two years. We can do better.

    1. Bill Orr (Post author)

      It’s unfortunate that the challenger is proving to be so ineffective as in this district there are more registered D’s than R’s, and there was a D (Adler) most recently between 2009 and 2011.

  2. CreedPogue

    In the Second District, people seem to forget that the district has consistently voted for Democratic statewide candidates: Obama, Booker, Menendez. Not so sure that is true in most of the other GOP districts.

    But, David Cole is struggling with resources.

    1. Bill Orr (Post author)

      It’s incredibly expensive to take on incumbents, and many NJ challengers make do with meager income of $150,000 or less. The average amount of funds raised by U. S. House candidates in the 2015-2016 cycle was $1.6 million. The day of an appealing newcomer with no money and an inability to raise a huge sum gaining a House seat has come and gone.


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