2018: The NJ path toward flipping Republican congressional districts – Part III: Republican Chris Smith’s CD4 & Democrat Josh Gottheimer’s CD5

Part III takes a dive into CD 4’s incumbent Chris Smith (R), a formidable vote getter, and CD 5’s incumbent Josh Gottheimer (D) – a must-win who faces a strong challenge from Republicans.

Year  Registered Unaffiliated, Dem, Rep / Race Winner, Challenger / Presidential Race Winner, Challenger

CD 4 Chris Smith (R I)
2010 U: 220,370, D: 109, 460, R: 112,627 / Smith: 129,752, Kleinhendler: 52,118
2012 U: 250,694, D: 110,144, R: 123,588 / Smith: 195,146 Froelich: 107,992 / Presidential: Romney 54% Obama 45%
2014 U: 251,507, D: 110,671, R: 124,925 / Smith: 118,826, Scolavino: 54,415
2016 U: 241,918, D: 127,650, R: 143,082 / Smith: 211,992, Phillipson: 111,532 /Presidential: Trump 51%, Clinton: 41%

The Conservative Review on recent legislation through 11/14/2017 ranks Smith (pictured left) as NJ’s most conservative representative with a score 43% (20 conservative and 27 liberal votes.) Although a moderate on some issues, Smith has been a leading voice to end abortion, defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the ACA. On the tax bill he says, somewhat vaguely, “I will continue working to preserve the state and local tax deduction, as well as significant tax cuts and meaningful tax reform that is fair for residents of my district.” Like his other NJ GOP representatives he issued a perfunctory, if flaccid, support of Dreamers, but no proposal to fix the problem.

The number of registered Democrats in this district has only barely increased in comparison with the larger increase in registered Republicans. Although the numbers of Democrats registered are consistently lower, they are not significantly lower than those of Republicans – a small advantage for us. Smith’s impressive victories are the strongest among his NJ Republican colleagues. Republicans have long won the presidential race here. After 36 years in office, no Democratic challenger has found the secret to replace him. The Cook Political Report rates 5 of 6 of our key districts as in play, either Leaning, Likely, or a Toss Up. Alas, such is not the case in CD 4 where Cook sees it firmly in Republican hands.

One of the Democratic Primary candidates includes Jim Keady (pictured left) who is starting early and aims to keep it local with a series of issue-based town halls. In 2014 he was famously told to sit down and shut up by Gov. Christie. He ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 2015. A strong challenger, should she want to run, would be State Senator Linda Greenstein who is comfortably ensconced in LD 16 14. Any challenger will have a tough road to hoe but in a more liberal, less Trumpian 2018 (we hope) there may be more failings of Smith that resonate and a powerful message from a challenger.


CD 5 Josh Gottheimer (D I) (pictured left) Until 2016 Scott Garrett (R) was the long-time arch-conservative representative.
2010 U: 200,832, D: 98,250, R: 133,994 / Garrett: 124,030, Theise: 62,634
2012 U: 230,206, D: 119,242, R: 131,509 / Garrett: 167,503, Gussen: 130,102 / Presidential: Romney: 51%, Obama: 49%
2014 U: 232,868, D: 120,211, R: 131,937 / Garrett: 104,678, Cho: 81,808
2016 U: 222,098, D: 142,629, R: 144,999 / Gottheimer: (D): 172,587, Garrett: 157,690 / Presidential: Trump: 49% Clinton: 48%

This is a must-win race to keep Gottheimer (D) in office after his superlative victory in 2016 over long-time incumbent, arch conservative Scott Garrett, but Gottheimer won the tight race with 52% of the votes. Between 2010 and 2016 (after re-apportionment) the number of registered Democrats increased dramatically by 50,000. By 2016 registered Democrats were only 2,000 less than Republicans. Nonetheless Republican Presidents won narrowly here in 2012 and 2016. Republicans are planning to spend big money to re-take the district and they are not wasting time.  Perennial candidate Steve Lonegan (R) has already announced his candidacy and Attorney John McCann (R) is expected to do the same on Saturday.

Often considered a progressive on social issues and a moderate on fiscal/regulatory matters, he nonetheless gained the lowest score from Conservative Review amongst all NJ members (helped by his limited time in office) of 0 (Conservative votes 0, Liberal votes 3). He co-chaired a bipartisan House group seeking a more liberal replacement of the ACA. He voted against Trump’s Budget resolution and the Repeal and Replace bills. See his complete voting record here. He is pro-choice,  pro-stronger gun regulations, a fervent supporter of DACA, and on the House tax bill he says, “Eliminating the State and Local Tax Deduction would be a catastrophic tax hike on the entire state… It is an economic disaster – anticompetitive and will shift jobs and people out of New Jersey.”

Our Blue Jersey Editor Rosi Efthim has pointed out, hours after his swearing in, he voted with the GOP to give Congress more power to invalidate regulations adopted by the Obama administration. In another diary she went on to say, “YES, sometimes we’re going to take issue with Gottheimer’s votes.… BUT remember Garrett used to occupy this seat and cast his vote with the most backward crap his party could dream up.”

The Cook Political Report rates CD 5 as “Lean (but not likely) Democrat.” Gottheimer is a keeper but the keeping will require our strong efforts through voter registration, donations and volunteers.


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

Part I in this series provides introductory information and a deep dive into CD (2) where Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo is retiring and the district has more Democrats than Republicans. Read it here.  Part II looks at the incumbent Republican Representative Tom MacArthur (CD 3) – he of much wealth but a tarnished reputation in today’s era of Trump decline. Read it here.

Comments (2)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    Linda Greenstein represents LD14 (for now). I wonder if your error was an error or a vision of the future.

    After Bateman retained his LD16 Senate seat this year by only a few hundred votes at the same time that Democrats gained an Assembly seat in the same district, I started to play with Dave’s Redistrcring App to see what could be done to make LD16 Democratic enough to beat him or scare him into a gubernatorial run in 2017 the same way that his former districtmate, Jack Ciattarelli, was this year.

    It would actually be very easy. Take Hunterdon County’s Delaware Township, Flemington Borough, and Raritan Township along with Somerset County’s Readington Township out of LD16 and move them to LD15, take Lawrence Township and West Windsor Township out of LD15 and move them to LD14 and LD16 respectively, and take Greenstein’s Plainsboro Township out of LD14 and move it to LD16.

    LD14 becomes marginally more Democratic, LD15 goes from being a safe Democratic seat with 70+% of the vote to being a safe Democratic seat with 60+% of the vote, and LD16 goes from being a toss up district to being a district that leans Democratic.

    The biggest reason why it is likely to happen is because it will open up LD14’s Senate seat for Steve Sweeney’s fellow Building and Tradesman, Wayne DeAngelo, while putting Greenstein in a district that would be even more Democratic than the one that she would be leaving. The new LD16 would also be tailor-made to her kind of hard work, retail politicking.

    The only downside to it is that it would relegate Andrew Zwicker to the Assembly for the next decade, but I find it hard to shed a tear for him. If he had taken on Bateman this year, he would have beaten him and most likely would have led Freeman and Poppe to victory in the Assembly races as well.

  2. Bill Orr (Post author)

    Thanks for pointing out that Sen. Greenstein is in the 14th not 16th District. The correction is noted above, and unfortunately I can make no claim to a vision of the future.
    Your comments on changes in the district are apropos as re-apportionment will be a hot topic after the 2020 census report.


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