The Third Legislative District is in the southwest corner of New Jersey. It includes all of Salem County (known as “The Garden Spot of the Garden State”), part of Gloucester County, and part of Cumberland County. 48% of the registered voters are in Gloucester County, 31% in Salem, and 21% in Cumberland (based on 2005 statistics). North Jersey residents may think of it as Exits One and Two on the New Jersey Turnpike. Much of the district remains rural, but suburban development is increasingly taking over the farmland, especially in Gloucester County. The geography includes significant wetlands and marshes along the Delaware River.
The Census 2000 State Legislative District Summary File (see factfinder.census.gov) reports a 2000 population of 209,230. Compared to the average for all of New Jersey, the district has less expensive houses ($109,100 vs. $170,800) and lower income ($47,535 vs. $55,146). 1.7% of the employed civilians 16 years or older are employed in agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting, which is the highest of any New Jersey district. 15.6% of workers are in manufacturing. On the other hand, only 16.8% of those 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree (or higher), well below New Jersey’s 29.8% average. Only 3.7% of the population is foreign born, the lowest of any New Jersey district, and only 8.3% speak a language other than English at home. The population is 79.0% white, 15.3% black, and only 0.8% Asian, in contrast to New Jersey’s overall values of 72.6, 13.6, and 5.7%. Latinos make up 5.7% of the population, again below New Jersey’s 13.3%, at least in 2000. 7.1% of the population was below the poverty line in 1999.
This overall demographic picture of this district — more whites, fewer immigrants, rural, less education — suggests a more culturally conservative district but with “blue collar” economic concerns. In fact, Democrats (25.5% of registered voters) outnumber Republicans (17.3%), but as usual in New Jersey, unaffiliated voters are a majority. The district is represented by three Democrats. Gloucester County is dominated by Democrats, and Salem County has been trending Democratic in recent freeholder elections.