2018: The NJ path toward flipping Republican congressional districts: Part I

The 2017 elections showed that Trumpism is in decline, and that the probability of Democrats to re-take control of the House or Senate or both next year keeps growing. In NJ the opportunity to flip Republican seats is staring us in the face. However, in addition to continuing advocacy and protests plus better messaging and listening to voters we need increased Democratic voter registration and a stronger get out the vote to win the day. The battle will not be easy.

An immediate issue now is the pending tax legislation with both the House and Senate versions particularly harmful for high tax states like New Jersey. Indivisible says, “The House could vote on Wednesday or Thursday and the Senate begins markup of their bill today. Let’s light up those phone lines! Read our Democratic call scripts and our Republican call scripts and start making calls!

This series provides a deep dive, with historical data and analysis, into six districts – in five of which there is a Republican incumbent and one where a Democrat re-took the district in 2016. Part I covers Congressional District 2, particularly interesting because the incumbent Republican is retiring at the end of the current term and the district has more registered Democrats than Republicans.

During the period from 2010 through 2017 Chris Christie has been our Republican governor, and our Legislature has been controlled by Democrats. However, because Democrats lacked the votes to overcome a veto, Christie ruled the day, except when deals were arranged or both sides were in general agreement. Progressive legislation has suffered, but should make a comeback under Governor-elect Phil Murphy and a Democratic controlled legislature.

The 2016 presidential race in NJ which resulted in an overall Democratic win for Clinton, and the 2017 races which resulted in a Democratic win for the governorship and a net increase in Democratic legislators should bode well for 2018 elections. However each congressional district has its unique issues, makeup and history, and in 5 of the 6 six districts Trump won the the Presidential race. We have data on Murphy’s win by county but not by congressional district, and it’s likely that in one or more of these districts Kim Guadagno (R) won.

So the path for flipping Republican congressional districts in 2018 is brighter but will have to be hard fought, and in light of the data is far from assured.

The Unaffiliated can be fickle and there are no reliable numbers on how they vote in a particular election. Hence, it’s important to enroll more Democrats and get them to the polls on election day. Also the number of voters are higher in 2012 and 2016 presidential election years but considerably lower in non presidential years. 2018 is another non-presidential year so we need to register more Democrats..


As will be presented for each of the six districts, below is the incumbent representative followed by congressional election years with its registered voters by Unaffiliated, Democrat, and Republican / Election winner, challenger, results / and in Presidential years President by winner, challenger and results. (I indicates incumbent): 

 

CD 2 Frank LoBiondo (R-I) will retire at the end of current term opening up new candidates in 2018
2010 U: 200,619, D: 122,447, R: 107,522 / LoBiondo: 109,460, Stein: 51,690
2012 U: 228,292, D: 128,486, R: 119,054 / LoBiondo: 166,679, Shober: 116,463 / Presidential: Obama: 54%, Romney: 46%
2014 U: 225,335, D: 126,927, R: 117,56 / LoBiondo: 108,875, Hughes: 66,026
2016 U: 213,240, D: 143,123, R: 128,529 / LoBiondo: 176,338 – Cole: 110,838 / Presidential: Trump: 51%, Clinton: 46%

So what does the above mean? 

The retiring LoBiondo has been a conservative Republican who sometimes voted as a moderate. That’s not surprising as his district has more registered Democrats than Republicans which will be of some help in the 2018 election. Since 2010 the number of Democrats has grown by over 21,000 but the Republicans are not far behind growing by about 9,000 – a Dem advantage. However, there remains the huge pool of 213,240 Unaffiliated fickle voters to capture. We need to register more Dems. The ongoing rallies/protests, union events, and meetings of progressive groups are a great place to have a voter registration table to allow people to re-register as Democrats and to register new individuals as Dems – all of which makes them identifiable to Democratic candidates.

Tanzie Youngblood

LoBiondo was well respected by many of his constituents and consistently won with big majorities, in 2016 by 61%, but the new Republican candidate may not have the same advantage. In this working-class, rural district so far there are no declared Republican candidates. Tanzie Youngblood (D), a retired teacher, “concerned about paying for healthcare, the direction of education, and making ends meet,” is in the running and is a likely preference for progressives. Nonetheless, in this long-standing Republican district she will face stiff primary competition from Jeff Van Drew (D) who also plans to run, with support from political boss George Norcross. Van Drew is one of NJ’s most conservative Democrats but a successful vote getter as he re-won his LD 1 State Senator incumbency this year with 65% of the vote. Read about Van Drew’s abysmal record on just about every issue the impassioned progressive base cares about.

On the Issues: Through 2014 That’s My Congress ranked LoBiondo as a “Milquetoast Conservative.”  During the 114th Congress (Jan 6, 2015-Jan 3, 2017), starting with the most conservative representative, GovTrack ranked him #240. LoBiondo voted against the GOP health-care bill earlier this year, has withheld so far support for the pending GOP tax bill, and voted against the Trumpian 2018 budget resolution with its huge cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. He has also said, “I will again support and vote for legislation that ensures a permanent solution for ‘Dreamers’ so they may continue to live and work in our great country.” These will likely be important issues in the 2018 race. The fact that a Republican has taken these positions against his party should bolster the confidence of Democrats in 2018 when they fight for these same issues.

Although Obama won this district in 2012, Trump won in 2016 by 51% to 46%, and given the district’s 24-year history of solidly voting for LoBiondo we can’t discount the overall Republican influence here. Nonetheless, the Cook Political Report recently moved its rating on the 2018 race to toss-up from safe Republican. This is a district we can flip.

All registered voter and election results from NJ Division of Elections: Election Information Archive, except where otherwise indicated as in Presidential results.

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