New Jersey’s Fifth District and the Road to 218

The New York Times this weekend published a list of 10 competitive House races this election cycle. One of the most notable ones – at least to the Blue Jersey fam — was in our very own 5th Congressional District. There, incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett, a Republican, is in the middle of the race of his political life as Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, wages a well-funded challenge. It’s yielded results, too, as Gottheimer has taken a lead in the polls.

From the New York Times:

“Representative Scott Garrett, a Republican, rankled colleagues last year when he said he would not donate to his party’s campaign committee because it recruits and backs gay candidates. Democrats have happily reminded donors about those comments, attracting ample cash to benefit his challenger, Josh Gottheimer, a former Clinton speechwriter. Combined with Mr. Garrett’s tendency to vote against the Republican leadership, analysts say the incumbent is facing the toughest race of his career.”

This is where your vote counts, Disrict 5, because a Gottheimer win could hold national significance.

Best case scenario:

Of course, winning a House majority is the tallest order, but it’s not completely out of the question. The Washington Post does report an outside shot of that happening.

“To take over the House, Democrats need to pretty well run the table. We currently rate 52 seats as at least somewhat competitive, and Democrats would need to win 38 — 71 percent — of them to get to 218 seats and a House majority.”

Basically, Democrats would need to hold on to all 12 seats that “lean Democratic,” and all 17 that are considered toss-ups. More challenging, they would have to pick up nine of the 23 seats that lean Republican.

Conventional wisdom right now says a House majority doesn’t happen for the Democrats, but:

  1. There are three weeks left before Election Day and
  2. If the Dems don’t win those lean Republican seats and win 208 House seats, they would have to find 10 Republicans to vote with them to pass legislation – presumably Republicans that forsook Trump.

OK, so as a partisan Democrat, I’m supposed to talk about why I’m excited about a Clinton presidency and not how terrible Trump is. One of my criticisms of President Obama (who I will miss very much) is his cool relationship with Congress. I have to be optimistic that Clinton and her Congressional, progressive allies will develop a better working relationship in the House and could effectively put pressure on cross-over Republicans to advance progressively legislation, like campaign finance reform.

That’s the best-case scenario — perhaps even better than a wholesale takeover of Congress whose members would otherwise have to spend all its time fundraising to hold on to power and thus, beholden to interests that might not be yours.

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