US House Races/New Jersey

Report by Bruce Driver from Indivisible North Boulder.

New Jersey District 02:

Candidates are Jeff Van Drew (D) and Seth Grossman (R). This an open seat. 

Van Drew is a dentist who has also been a State Assemblyman and 3-term State Senator.   He has a B.S. from Rutgers and a D.D.S. from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is said in a Philadelphia Inquirer article reviewing this race to be a “conservative state senator” who beat 3 progressives in the primary.   In so doing, he annoyed activists but he secured the backing of the DCCC, which foresees the likelihood that Van Drew can win in a district represented by a Republican for the last 22 years. He does not have an issues/positions page on his website, and he has not provided Smart Vote with any information, so it is hard to determine where he is on the issues that he may confront in Congress.   His passion seems to be to find common ground within congressional gridlock. Politico.com says he opposes raising the minimum wage, gay marriage and, as a Second Amendment supporter, additional gun controls in New Jersey. He opposes off-shore drilling off of New Jersey. He won his primary with 55% of the vote and had had $412,000 cash on hand in May.

Grossman practices law in Atlantic City, having graduated from Duke and Temple Law School.     He has also been a City Councilman in Atlantic City, a talk-show host and frequent writer of articles in the South Jersey press.   He says he is a “staunch constitutional conservative,” a strong supporter of Trump’s agenda and is adamant that none of his views will change going forward, apparently no matter the evidence.   His website does not provide much detail on his positions, but he did answer Vote Smart’s questionnaire, from which the following info is taken. He wants to build The Wall, repeal Obamacare, supports gun control (but we have enough of it already), opposes abortions after 12-15 weeks of pregnancy except where there is physical danger to the mother and child, opposes tax increases to balance the budget (but we should not reduce defense expenditures), opposes the use of federal funds to promote economic development, opposes the promotion of renewable resources at the federal level as well as the regulation of greenhouse gases.   He supports legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. In short, he seems ideologically somewhat of a libertarian but mainly just a conventional right-wing R. His primary victory was a surprise, according to local press. He had only $11,000 in cash on hand in May.

Description of district: The southern 30% of the state, this district contains Atlantic City and Cape May.   It is 79% urban, but it has a strong fishing, agricultural and tourism economic base.   It is said to be 79% White, 15% Black, 2% Asian and 10% Hispanic. HMI was $44,000. Trump won by 5% in 2016.   Cook says it has a PVI of R+1 but rates this fall’s race as “likely D.”

Summary: Van Drew’s nomination, while distressing to activists, increases the likelihood of a D victory this fall, especially in light of Grossman’s stands and his lack of funding support.   Van Drew is likely sufficiently “conservative” to enable corporations to stay out of this race on Grossman’s side. In short, this looks like a probable pick-up for Ds.

 

New Jersey District 03:

Candidates are Tom MacArthur (incumbent R) and Andrew Kim (D).   Neither had competition in the primary on June 5.

MacArthur is a two-term incumbent.   He graduated from Hofstra University and spent his professional career in the insurance industry, rising from claim adjuster to head of a large, international company.   He and his wife run a family foundation that provides disaster relief, help with AIDs in Africa and distributes wheelchairs. To hear his general positions on the issues, you have to call his office.   I did not do that. So I went to “Smart Vote,” which compiles information on positions of candidates, but MacArthur did not provide SV information, unlike many other members. MacArthur has a reputation as a somewhat moderate R, but his actual voting record mostly shows otherwise.   In short, he is mostly a right-wing R. He voted for the R’s substitute for Obamacare, but he does seem to have secured some improvements to it before his vote. He voted for the tax-cut bill (risky in NJ), for a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, concealed-carry reciprocity, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, for penalties on sanctuary cities, for the Omnibus Budget Bill, and against greenhouse gas regulation at the federal level.   He also voted to implement restrictions on the EPA Science Advisory Board. He says he supports gun control legislation (but what?). He has voted with Trump 95% of the time. He won by 20% points in 2016 and had $1 million cash on hand in May.

Kim has been a Rhodes Scholar and got his Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford.   He has served in the White House (for Obama), in the Pentagon, as an advisor to General Petraeus, in the State Dept. and in the U.S. Senate.  He appears to be a very bright, progressive-leaning candidate, but I could not find a full bio or a statement of positions by him. Nor did I find a decent interview of him by local media.   (There are several other “Andrew Kims,” including a pop singer, someone who advised Harvey Weinstein and others, which flood Google and make a search for info on the congressional candidate difficult.)   Also, to get to his website, Kim seems to try to require you make a donation to him, passing an Act Blue tollgate. No way. He’s got to make it easier. He had $972,000 cash on hand in May.

Description of district: This district crosses New Jersey from West to East just south of the middle of the state.   It is 96% urban and 86% White, 9% Black, 3% Asian and 4% Hispanic. HMI was about $55,000. Trump won by 6% in 2016.   Cook gives it an R+2 PVI and rates the race as “lean R.”

Summary: Both of these candidates make it difficult to find out about them, but it is clear that MacArthur is no progressive.   Kim probably is.

 

New Jersey District 05:  

Candidates are Josh Gottheimer (incumbent D) and John McCann (R)

Gottheimer is a one-term incumbent.   He was educated at University of Pennsylvania, Oxford and Harvard Law School.  He was a staffer in the Clinton White House, worked for the Ford Motor Co., was a counselor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was General Manager for Corporate Strategy for Microsoft and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton Univ.’s Center for Information Technology.   In Congress he is co-chair of the bi-partisan Problem-Solvers’ Caucus. He favors Reproductive choice, wants lower taxes but voted against the tax-cut bill, voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, voted for a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, against concealed-carry reciprocity, against punishing sanctuary cities, against the Republican replacement of Obamacare, against the delay of ozone rules and repeal of BLM’s planning rules, but in favor of amendments to Dodd-Frank.   He is a thoughtful centrist who is trying to work with Rs of a similar nature. He won by 4% in 2016 and voted with Trump 52% of the time. He had $3.9 million cash on hand in May.

McCann is a lawyer who most recently worked for the Bergen County Sheriff’s office.   He has a degree in Political Science from Pace University, an MA in Government Administration from Penn and a J.D. from Queens College.  He says he would have voted against the tax-cut bill (as most NJ politicians did or say they would have) but otherwise seems a down-the-line Trump agenda supporter.   He follows Trump on trade, is against sanctuary cities, supports Trump’s “commonsense” immigration plan (whatever that is), would repeal and replace Obamacare, is a big supporter of the Second Amendment, believes the Iran-Nuke deal is a national disgrace, is pro- life and supports The Wall and school choice.   He won his two-person primary with 53% of the vote. In May he had $46,000 in cash on hand.

Description of district:  This is the northern edge of New Jersey bordering Pennsylvania and New York.   To the West it is mostly rural, but as it gets nearer New York City it becomes suburban and is 83% urban.   HMI was $73,000. It is 83% White, 2% Black, 7% Asian and 5% Hispanic. Trump won this district by 1% in 2016.  Cook gives it a PVI of R+3 but rates it as “likely D” this fall.

Summary:  This race seems like a steep, uphill struggle for McCann.   Trump is not popular in New Jersey and McCann’s unabashed support for him and his agenda don’t seem well-calculated to take votes away from Gottheimer, whose financial resources are 85 times those of McCann.

 

New Jersey District 07:

Candidates are Leonard Lance (incumbent R) and Tom Malinowski (D)

Lance is a five-term incumbent.   He has a B.A. from Lehigh Univ., a law degree from Vanderbilt Univ. and an MA from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton.   He served in the NJ State Assembly and then State Senate, where he rose to be Minority Leader. He supported Obama’s Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; is a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus; opposes off-shore drilling in the mid-Atlantic region; opposed drilling in ANWR; opposed Trump’s budget cuts for EPA; wants to ban bump stocks and opposed concealed-carry reciprocity legislation; opposed the tax cut bill and repeal of Obamacare; and opposes The Wall.  But he voted for penalties on sanctuary cities; for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and on amendments to Dodd-Frank. He voted for the cap and trade bill in 2009, but now supports Trump’s abandonment of the Clean Power Plan. He is one of the few “liberal Republicans” in the House, but he has voted with Trump 85% of the time. He won his primary with three-quarters of the vote and had $900,000 cash on hand in May.

Malinowski, an immigrant from Poland at age 6, has spent most of his career at the highest level of policy development and implementation in DC.    He has a degree in Political Science from UCal-Berkeley and an M. Phil. from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has worked for Sen. Pat Moynihan, for the Ford Foundation, as a speechwriter for Secretaries of State Christopher and Albright, and he became Ass’t Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rghts and Labor in the second Obama administration.   From 2001-2013, he was Washington Director for Human Rights Watch. On the issues, he supports Obamacare, a $15/hr. minimum wage, an assault weapons ban, is against concealed-carry reciprocity, for the establishment of 21 as the minimum age before firearms may be purchased, is for equal pay for equal work, supports reproductive choice and access to contraceptives, wants to have the federal government work with the states to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, wants to substitute science for ideology on environmental matters, supports LGBTQ rights and the Dreamers, supports sanctions on Russia and supports the independence of the Department of Justice in the Russia investigation.   In short, he is a thoughtful progressive across-the-board. He won his competitive primary with two-thirds of the vote and had $782,000 in cash on hand in May.

Description of district: Hunterdon County and parts of five other counties that stretch from the Pennsylvania border to the New York City metro area in northern New Jersey.   Including some wealthy outer suburbs of New York City, this district’s HMI was $102,000, making it the richest district analyzed in these reports. It is 79% White, 6% Black, 11% Asian and 10% Hispanic.   Hillary won by 2% in 2016. The Cook PVI is an R+3, and Cook, after having rated this race a “toss-up” earlier in the year, now rates it “lean R.”

Summary: Malinowski is an articulate proponent of a progressive vision for this district, and he has an impressive resume.   His opponent is caught between loyalty to the R Party and knowledge that Trump is unpopular in the district. It will be interesting to see if Lance reverts to more conservative positions in the campaign in return for support from the party and its donors or becomes more liberal to fend off Malinowski.   This will be a titanic struggle, one that Malinowski can win, provided he has sufficient resources.

 

New Jersey District 11:

Candidates are Mikie Sherrill (D) and Jay Webber (R). This is an open seat, Rep. Frelinghuysen having decided to retire. 

Sherrill is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, has a Masters degree from the London School of Economics and a J.D. from Georgetown Law School.   For ten years she was a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Navy, then worked in private law practice and for the U.S. Attorney’s office, eventually becoming a prosecutor.   She wants to build her district’s economy on the high-tech base that already exists, but seeks additional investment in infrastructure to make this work. She opposed the tax-cut bill, calling it a giveaway to the rich by New Jersey’s middle class, believes that healthcare is a right, is pro-choice, wants to see a federal assault weapons ban to better protect New Jersey, which already has one, from guns coming in from outside the state, and states that climate change is real and, thus, she will work to reinstate federal climate programs.  Her website needs an update as it is full of attacks on current representative Frelinghuysen, who announced his retirement last January. She won her primary with 78% of the vote. She had $1.8 million in cash on hand in May.

Webber is a Member of the New Jersey State Assembly (since 2008) and a practicing lawyer.   He has a degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins and got his law degree from Harvard.  He served as a budget staffer in the U.S. House and spent time at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank in NYC.   I could not find much on his positions on issues he would confront in Congress, but you can easily ascertain his general approach.  In short, he is a hard-right, conservative ideologue. He is proud that he has been called the “conservative conscience of the state legislature.”  He is pro-life, in favor of tax cuts, worked to get New Jersey out of the highly important Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, is a strong Trump-supporter, voted against the equal pay for equal work bill (one of only two in the Assembly to do so), favors school choice and, on healthcare, says only that he wants to allow New Jerseyans to be able to purchase insurance across state lines.    He has received the “Taxpayer Hero Award” from the Koch Americans for Prosperity. He won his primary with 40% of the vote. He had $226,000 in cash on hand in May.

Description of District: This is mainly suburbs of New York City, including wealthy and not-so wealthy areas.   It includes the towns of Montclair (where I grew up), Bloomfield, Nutley, Morristown and Little Falls.   It is 93% urban, 88% White, 3% Black, 6% Asian and 7% Hispanic. It has an HMI of $79,000. Trump beat Hillary by 1%.   Cook gives it a PVI of R+3 but rates this as a “toss-up.”

Summary: The retiring Rep. Frelinghuysen, while still quite conservative, has been a moderating influence within the Republican Party in the House during his long service.  Webber is his opposite, an intelligent but doctrinaire conservative seemingly afflicted with Manhattan- Institute disease. Mikie Sherrill seems to be a fairly down-the-line progressive, but with broader and more cosmopolitan experience than Webber.   She is worth supporting, no question. It will be interesting to see which direction this district goes after Frelinghuysen’s long run. Sherrill has the advantage in resources at the starting gate, but, no doubt, corporations and right-wingers will dump money on Webber.