The House of Representatives – the People’s House – should be the most accountable to voters given that every member must stand for reelection every two years. Yet, despite ridiculously low Congressional approval ratings, incumbents are still expected to be reelected at a 90% rate or more. Indeed – the 7 New Jersey seats held by Democrats are universally considered safe. (Quick – can you even name the Republican challengers in the 6 races being contested? – I couldn’t.)
Not so for the 6 seats held by Republicans. When the polls close two weeks from this moment, we have 6 chances to increase the democratic majority in the NJ House delegation. And, although conventional wisdom suggests some of these chances are better than others – there is reason for optimism in all of them. It’s not just the anticipated coattails from Obama’s increasing lead in NJ, or Senator Lautenberg’s strong poll numbers that are cause for enthusiasm. There is also the little matter of new voters – hundreds of thousands of new voters in our state, substantial majorities of which favor the democrats. We are now playing on offense exclusively for the next two weeks – and every one of these candidates wants your help:
In NJ-2: David Kurkowski has an uphill battle against an incumbent whose middling ratings on labor issues nevertheless continue to keep him in good standing with the Atlantic City unions that might one day help flip this district. Too many people wrote off this district as soon as Jeff Van Drew said he wouldn’t run. But this swing district in a year when independent voters are leaning so heavily democrat is not exactly the worst place to be running for Congress.
In NJ-3: Senator John Adler began the race as a the money favorite, but aware of the challenge even for an open seat in a District anchored by Republican stronghold Ocean County. But, recent polls show Adler may finally be breaking through, and with the cash on hand to finish things out – I think this race has edged past NJ-7 as our most likely pickup.
In NJ-4: Josh Zeitz has surpassed all expectations, with fundraising in the half-million dollar range, and an aggressive campaign that has not let up for a moment against another Republican incumbent who enjoys the unearned support of big labor. He needs to overcome dismissive treatment by the MSM and the PR miracle Chris Smith landed earlier in the campaign. But, this is another swing district, and with the benefit of increased turnout and a strong top of the ticket, it’s a District that DC dems may regret not paying closer attention to.
In NJ-5: Dennis Shulman has raised more money than his two predecessors combined, and transformed a second tier race into one of the most exciting campaigns in the nation. That combination of cash and energy, together with a dynamic candidate, and an incumbent who relies heavily on the district’s registration advantage for wins, could produce a very welcome surprise. Getting rid of both Scott Garrett and Joe Ferriero in rapid succession? Dare to dream.
In NJ-7: Linda Stender has raised a boat load of money, and blanketed the airwaves with negative advertising to define her opponent before he could come up with enough money to define himself. I’m nervous that she hasn’t put this one away yet, but l still think Linda can get to the finish line. “The Congresswoman from New Jersey” still has a very nice ring to it.
In NJ-11: Tom Wyka has fought hard against a challenger’s toughest foe – raising money in a district people don’t yet believe is competitive. But, at least as much as any other race this cycle, Tom has his talent and the people power of Morris County progressives to fuel his bid. His supporters think he can win, and doing what they can to make it happen.
In a year of hope and change you can believe in, we may just be in for some surprises on election night. But, it will only happen if we work for it. Elections are won and lost in crunch time – and that time is now. Time to create some surprises.
What’s your favorite surprise prediction for election day? Take the Poll, and make your pitch in the comments.