Lessons for Flipping Congress … From a Rural Area of New Jersey

Above, Cory Booker, with LD23 Dems, Warren/Sussex NAACP’s Charles Boddy, engineer Laura Shaw, state senate challenger Christine Chen, a neuroscientist. LD23 has been crimson red, Republican-controlled. All 3 challengers lost. But the energy in the 2017 campaign, fueled by new resistance groups for superb candidates, was thrilling – and reflected in 23’s numbers. Now we look to 2018, with Leonard Lance in one of only 23 districts in the country where the GOP incumbent won but so did Hillary. – Promoted by Rosi, and I added the photo

New Jersey Democrats made great inroads in the rural district LD23 (Warren, Hunterdon, and Somerset Counties) legislative race this year.  The legislative ticket cut the gap between Democratic and Republican votes in half, from 2013. I had the closest race on the ticket. I received 86% of the votes needed to win, compared to 33% for the lead legislative Democrat in the last gubernatorial election.  For more perspective, only two of the fourteen districts in Virginia that flipped this year made up a greater margin.

These gains were achieved by first-time candidates who started campaigning only eight months before the election and raised only $250,000.  For comparison, the neighboring district LD16, which started with a Democratic incumbent, spent $1 million to hold one Assembly seat and flip the other.

These gains will be instrumental to the 2018 race to unseat Leonard Lance in CD7.  LD23 voters account for 22% of CD7 voters.  Eighteen of the Hunterdon County municipalities are in LD23 and account for 11% of the voters.  This area voted 61% Republican in the 2014 Congressional race.  But if we can hold the gains made this year – just HOLD them – we will even the score for the CD7 candidate.  If Democrats can build on those gains, our CD7 candidate would flip this rural area.

What did we learn from the LD23 race? National politics, resistance groups, social media, postcard-writing campaigns, texts, phone banking, direct mail, etc. all contributed to the success.  But elections are still won on doors and dollars.  The LD23 campaign logged over 23,000 door knocks, securing votes from people who were not reachable any other way.  These potential voters don’t follow politics on Facebook, and they don’t go to Indivisible groups.  They have disdain for politicians and don’t believe what they read or see on TV.  Even at the door, they are skeptical.  But the most disengaged voter will think twice when a candidate or a neighbor stands on his doorstep.  We cannot flip this district without these votes. 

Results tell the story. Clinton Township, one of the reddest municipalities in NJ, was canvassed twice: once by me as a candidate, and again by Democratic committee members who canvassed their neighbors.  Democratic votes increased 53% while Republican votes declined 7%.  For comparison, not one district in Virginia closed a gap this wide.

So join us and commit to canvassing your neighbors.  Help us replace Lance, regain control of Congress, and get this country back on track!


Comment (1)

  1. Senator Loretta Weinberg

    I am sorry we did not do more for you and other first time Women Dems running against incumbents. With the help of PAMs list we raised a little bit of money. Very disappointed in the State Committwweomen of our State party who were so unresponsive to our solicitation – although a few did help out. . Our party needs to rebuild from the grassroots uo. Would love to see their plan to do so.


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