It might not have seemed like a major election year, but with a Senate race and every seat in the House of Representatives contested, New Jersey voters needed some background. In puruit of that, I covered the primary in New Jersey 2014 Primary Election and then covered the general election in these articles, and also attempted to contact each of the major party candidates. Those who responded were covered in articles covering those interviews, all of which are now included in New Jersey 2014 Candidate Interviews.
Maps of each of the districts appear in the primary coverage article; the sections with each map are linked from the corresponding sections here.
New Jersey voters will fill seats in the United States House of Representatives in all twelve congressional districts in November, plus one Senate seat. This column will attempt to provide at least a snapshot of each of the twenty-six major party candidates in these races. Any reader who would like to see coverage of any third-party candidate in any of these races should please contact the author with at least the identity of the candidate and the race in which he is running.
The author has attempted to contact all candidates in New Jersey Congressional and Senate races, and will continue to provide featured coverage of any others who respond sufficiently promptly to allow time for publication of their replies.
The author has attempted to contact all candidates in New Jersey Congressional and Senate races, and will continue to provide featured coverage of any others who respond sufficiently promptly to allow time for publication of their replies.
Some of these candidates were previously covered in New Jersey 2013 Special Senatorial Election the previous year.
This article covers the major candidates in the 12th congressional district; the series will count down from there to the first, and then cover the senate race. Whether this sequence has been chosen because the author lives in the second legislative district and wants to delay coverage of that until more campaigning has produced better information, or because having lived with the problems of always being at the end of alphabetical lists wanting to invert the list in this case, the reader might guess.
The 12th Congressional District includes significant parts of northern Mercer County (including Trenton), western Middlesex County, and a slim southeastern edge of Somerset County.
Dr. Alieta Eck made a name for herself last year, running against Steve Lonegan in the Republican primary of the special Senate election. The question is whether she made enough of a name for herself to be recognized in this election, as she makes a run at the House seat vacated by the retirement of Congressman Rush Holt.
Eck's major issue is the Affordable Care Act, that is, Obamacare. She is a medical doctor and co-founder of a free clinic which has provided services to the poor using volunteer medical personnel and community support, and she believes that medical care in this country needs to be fixed, but the currently controversial law is not the way to fix it. She has testified in Congress on these problems, and hopes that she can work within the system to provide a better answer. She has been the chief executive of a national organization of physicians (Association of American Physicians and Surgeons), who encouraged her to run based on her ability there.
On other issues, she toes a conservative line. She would help the middle class and small businesses with tax reductions and reform, coupled with reductions in government spending, passing a balanced budget amendment, and eliminating "earmarks". Also in this vein, she wants to reduce government regulation generally, and particularly to end the practice of delegating regulatory rules creation to bureaucrats instead of having elected officials include them in legislation. She favors pulling the Federal Government out of local education, putting it in the hands of the states and local communities and encouraging innovation and school choice programs.
To many, though, her real credential for becoming a "public servant" is that she has long been one: she founded and operates a non-government free clinic, donating her time to providing real medical care to the poor and uninsured.
Opposing her on the Democratic side is New Jersey State Assembly Woman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who has previously worked in various administrative positions within the government. She has been endorsed by several unions. Education is her top priority issue, having worked on the Assembly Education Committee; she sponsored legislation to increase the age requirement for compulsory school attendance to 18. She also holds strongly liberal positions on numerous issues, supporting the LGBT agenda and the DREAM Act, and tighter gun control. She argues for a reduction in fossil fuel use in favor of sustainable energy, as part of a strong overall environmental policy, and pushed for a law to require solar energy systems in some new home construction. She is also on record as calling for federal action against climate change.
As part of a strong women's rights activism, she is pro-choice. She speaks of economic justice, and the guarantee that everyone can earn a living wage, and sponsored a bill to raise the New Jersey State minimum wage. As part of the war on violence, she wants more money for law enforcement and particularly for operations and tactical units.
This is the district in which Democratic Congressman Rush Holt is the incumbent; he is retiring this year. He has been known as one of the most progressive liberals in Congress, but also one of the most intelligent--a prominent Princeton physicist, he beat IBM's Watson computer in Jeopardy prep games. It remains to be seen whether the district will support another extreme liberal with considerably less education (a Bachelors) or another highly-educated professional (a medical doctor with a degree from pharmacy college) who is considerably more conservative. Prior to Holt taking office in 1999, the seat was held by Republican Mike Pappas. The district appears to be mostly middle class with a strong minority population (over forty percent) and moderately strong high school and college graduation rates.
The 11th Congressional District includes most of western Morris County, the southeastern edge of Sussex County, the southeastern tail of Passaic County (but not Patterson), and northern and western Essex County.
Incumbent Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinguysen is a Vietnam vet, from an engineering battalion, who supports a strong military, veterans programs, and national security. He serves on the House Subcommittees on Defense and Homeland Security; he is also chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. His record places him as a moderate conservative, closer to the center than most of the party. He seeks to curb the national debt and cut taxes, and looks to create jobs. He is against the Affordable Care Act, but seeks alternatives in health care reform. On education, he believes in federal, state, and local involvement working together particularly in support of math, science, and technology training. He voted against a bill that would have banned late term abortions, but does not believe abortion to be a woman's unrestricted right.
His opponent, Mark Dunec, has no political experience but works as a Managing Director for a management consulting firm. He bases his campaign on the slogan "Leadership. Action. Results." He bills himself as a "professional problem solver" who will support good ideas without regard for party connections. He has received the support of several labor unions. His website rather extensively covers policy positions on issues, and transparency is something he hopes to maintain, that his constituents would always know his position on any issue. Those positions lean to the liberal side rather strongly, including tightening enforcement of gun laws, supporting abortion and the LGBT agenda, and giving the United Nations more power to enforce human rights around the world. He supports universal health care, and thinks that the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction but needs to be amended to make it fully workable.
We sent invitations to all major party candidates in these November races to answer e-mail interview questions, and Mark Dunec was first to respond. You will find his answers in the article Mark Dunec, New Jersey 11th district Democratic Congressional candidate, linked below. We have not yet received a response from Rodney Frelinghuysen's campaign, but that is true of most of the candidates at this point (several have indicated an intention to reply, but only a few have done so).
Prior to Freylinghuysen's election in 1995 the seat was held by Republican Congressman Dean Gallo. The district seems to favor a moderate conservative; Freylinghuysen withstood a challenge from a Tea Party conservative in the primary. It is a largely white upper middle class suburban region tapering into the edge of wilderness, with the highest high school and college graduation rates in the state--slightly more than half of voters hold college degrees--and the second highest median income. It also has the highest percentage of whites and the lowest of blacks; Asians and Hispanics both outnumber blacks, despite the district having the second lowest percentage of Hispanics in the state. Freylinghuysen has won by strong margins in every election since 2000.
Our interview with Marc Dunec appears here.
The 10th Congressional District includes southeastern Essex County, the eastern edge Union County, and part of southern Hudson County, including parts of both Jersey City and Newark.
Incumbent Democrat Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., is in his first term; he took the seat from his father, Congressman Donald M. Payne (also a Democrat), who had held the office from 1989 until his death in 2012. He serves on the Homeland Security and the Small Business Committees. He has a strong tendency to vote the Democratic party line. He strongly favors abortion as an unrestricted right, the LGBT agenda, green energy development, and expanding the Affordable Care Act; in economics he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and use government stimulus rather than market-led recovery programs, and opposes free trade. He opposes school choice, tougher criminal penalties, expanding the military, and gun rights.
His Republican opponent, Yolanda Dentley, is just beginning to launch her campaign; her Dentley for Congress web site went live this week. Prior to that, her primary presence on the Internet was through the Yolanda Dentley for Congress Facebook page. She has been Vice Principal of the Union Avenue Middle School in Roselle, and speaks of working together across party lines to accomplish objectives. We interviewed her recently, and so her positions can be found in Yolanda Dentley, New Jersey 10th district Republican Congressional candidate, linked below. She considers herself a moderate Republican, and holds liberal views on a number of issues. She also notes that Democrats have held the congressional seat for over sixty years, and the district has not done well during that time.
This is the only New Jersey district in which black voters represent more than half the population; the next nearest is less than a fifth black. Fewer than a third of the district's voters are white, and there is an above average Hispanic presence. Typically New Jersey districts show more women than men by about two to three percentage points (only one district has more men than women), but this district has the largest disparity at twice that. It also has the highest unemployment rate in the state, and the lowest median household income. It ties for lowest high school graduation rate and has the second worst college graduation rate. The district has been represented by not merely a Democrat but a member of the Payne family for decades. The incumbent Payne took the Democratic primary with ninety percent of the vote against three opponents. At present the question is whether a black woman who is a Republican and an educator can defeat a black man who is a Democrat, an incumbent, and a career politician from a political family.
Our interview with Yolanda Dentley appears here.
The 9th Congressional District includes a small northern bit of Hudson County, the southern edge of Bergen County, and the southeastern tail of Passaic county, including part of Patterson.
Both candidates in the general election ran unopposed in the primary.
Democratic incumbent Congressman Bill Pascrell, formerly Mayor of Patterson, became Congressman from District 8 in 1996; redistricting moved part of Patterson into District 9 (eliminating one of New Jersey's formerly thirteen legislative disticts), but he was re-elected from District 9 in 2012. With nearly two decades in Congress, Pascrell has a substantial record reflecting his views. He is considered a moderate Democrat, and follows the Democratic party line about ninety-five percent of the time. He strongly favors expanding the healthcare bill, same-sex marriage, green energy, stimulus programs, affirmative action in hiring for women and minorities, and limiting campaign funding. He similarly strongly opposes school choice and maintaining U.S. sovereignty as opposed to submission to the United Nations, and is strongly opposed to legislation that would compromise animal rights in favor of human needs. Also on his list of positions he supports are higher taxes on the wealthy, abortion as a woman's right, and citizenship for illegal aliens; he similarly opposes free trade, privatized social security, keeping God in the public sphere, stricter criminal punishments, and expanding the military, and he is open to legalizing marijuana and is not opposed to becoming involved in Iran. Prior to being in politics he was a teacher and a member of the United States Army, and obtained a masters degree in philosophy.
His Republican opponent is also an educator, Dr. Dierdre Paul, with two masters and one doctorate in education fields. She identifies herself as a "Frederick Douglass Republican" on her Facebook page. She is reportedly presently active in her Roman Catholic church and formerly active in the Bergen County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.). She has taught in the New York City school system and in New Jersey at Montclair State University. Paul has accepted an invitation to be interviewed by e-mail, and we are awaiting her responses to our questions.
The district is third lowest in white voters, with the second highest Hispanic population and ranking third in Asian voters and fourth in Black voters. Unemployment is slightly above the state median, and income in the bottom half. It ties for the lowest high school graduation rate, but stands near the middle on college graduates. Although Pascrell has been in Congress since 1997, this technically is his first term as 9th district Congressman. The 8th district which he represented was largely dissolved, most of it going into the 9th, which lost significant parts of its territory; in a bitter primary fight in 2012 Pascrell defeated fellow Democratic incumbent Steve Rothman, who had represented the district since 1997. The Democrats have won the district by between two thirds and three quarters of the vote since at least the beginning of the century.
The 8th Congressional District includes an awkwardly shaped portion of Hudson County and a non-adjacent eastern fragment of Union County. It also includes fragments from other counties, including parts of both Jersey City and Newark.
Both candidates ran unopposed in the primary.
Democrat Albio Sires has been in Congress since 2007, but technically is in his first term from this district. He was the incumbent in district 13 when redistricting reduced the number of districts to twelve, and a significant part of his district was merged with the revised district 9; the elimination of district 8, held by Democrat Bill Pascrell, created competition in the Democratic party for available seats, Pascrell taking district 9 and Sires taking the newly reformed district 8.
Sires is a Cuban-born naturalized American citizen who was previously mayor of West New York (in eastern New Jersey); he holds a Masters of Arts degree from Middlebury College. He is considered an average party-line Democrat based on his voting record. His views appear very liberal, strongly favoring abortion, affirmative action, Obamacare expansion, homosexual marriage, green energy, economic stimulus packages, and political campaign funding limits, animal rights, and conceding power to the United Nations, and also supporting higher taxes on the wealthy, stricter gun control, and involvement in Iraq. He strongly opposes school vouchers, privatized social security, and expanding the military, and is against free trade agreements, and keeping God in the public realm. He appears uncommitted regarding marijuana legalization and increased criminal punishment. Oddly (given both his own background and the ethnic makeup of his district) his position on immigration reform is unclear.
Running against him on the Republican side is Jude-Anthony Tiscornia, an attorney with a previous unsuccessful run for the New Jersey General Assembly. We interviewed Tiscornia, published last week and linked below. He terms himself an "Urban Republican", seeking to reduce Federal spending and debt, replace Obamacare with something more functional, create a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, and reduce student debt. He favors some gun control, homosexual marriage, and the legalization and taxation of marijuana. He also believes in the sanctity of human life.
Tiscornia emphasizes that unlike his opponent he is not a career politician. Given that his district is so strongly held by the Democrats, he suggests that the Democratic Party machine selects and owns the congressman, and that a Republican would be more responsive to the constituents and less beholden to the party bosses. For more, see the interview.
District 8 has nearly as many Hispanic voters as White voters, both just over fifty percent of the vote and as many Hispanic voters as the next two districts combined. (Note that census definitions allow a person to be simultaneously "Hispanic" and either "White" or "Black".) It has average Black and Asian populations for the state, above the median unemployement rate, second lowest median household income, and the lowest high school graduation rate in the state, although close to the median on college graduation rates. It is also the only district in the state where men outnumber women. It has been consistently and strongly Democratic.
Our interview with Jude-Anthony Tiscornia appears here.
The 7th Congressional District includes all of Hunterdon County plus the southwestern tip of Warren, the southwestern corner of Morris, most of Somerset, and a western portion of Union counties.
Republican incumbent Congressman Leonard Lance came up through the legal/political world, with a Juris Doctore leading to a position as law clerk in the county court system, a position in the legal department under Governor Kean, and seats in the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate, before running for United States Congress in 2008. He has been incumbent there since then. He is considered a moderate Republican, voting with the party on most bills. His voting record shows that he strongly favors maintaining U.S. sovereignty against the United Nations, and limiting campaign funding; he also favors school vouchers, green energy, gun ownership rights, same-sex marriage, animal rights, and involvement in Iran. He strongly opposes unrestricted abortion rights, citizenship for illegal aliens, higher taxes on the wealthy, free trade, and stimulus packages, and also is against Obamacare. He has held the seat by strong margins since taking it.
His Democratic opponent Janice Kovach has accepted an invitation to be interviewed; we are awaiting her responses to our questions. She has served as Mayor of Clinton, New Jersey, since 2012, with earlier political experience at the local and state levels, and ran unopposed in the primary. She believes that her previous experience in business management prepares her to work with both parties. Her website gives her positions on five issues of importance to her; the top of the list appears to be the U.S. relationship with Israel, which she would support and strengthen in the interest of mutual security particularly against Iran. Second on the list is the economy, which she would improve through stimulus spending on infrastructure and by preventing multinational companies from reducing their share of United States taxes paid. She puts women's health third, by which she apparently means (first words in her statement) that she favors unrestricted abortion and wants to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision. She also indicates an intention to protect social security and veterans' benefits.
District 7 has the highest median household income, the lowest unemployment rate, and the second highest graduation rates from both high school and college. It is predominantly white, third highest percentage of white voters in the state and over four-fifths of the total; it shows among the lowest numbers of blacks, an average number of Asians, and a number of Hispanics a bit below the median. Republican Lance took the seat in 2008 from Republican Mike Ferguson; Republicans have tended to hold the seat in recent memory, sometimes by slim pluralities but usually by solid majorities.
Our interview with Janice Kovach appears here.
The 6th Congressional District includes eastern Middlesex County including New Brunswick, and northern shore areas of Monmouth County.
Democratic incumbent Frank Pallone is regarded a "reliable" and "safe" vote for the democratic party positions; he nearly always votes with the party line. He styles himself a Lautenberg Democrat, and ran as such for Senator Lautenberg's vacated seat last year, but lost in the primary. Based on his voting record he strongly favors affirmative action, abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), homosexual marriage, increased taxes on the wealthy, animal rights, citizenship for illegal immigrants, campaign funding limits, green energy, and economic stimulus plans; he also tends to favor stricter criminal punishment and legalizing marijuana. He strongly opposes school vouchers, gun rights, free trade, protecting U. S. Sovereignty against the United Nations, and privatizing social security; he also votes against keeping God in the public sphere, expanding the military, and involvement in Iran. He was unopposed in the primary, and took the district by a strong majority in the last election, his thirteenth full term.
His Republican opponent Anthony Wilkinson also ran unopposed in the primary. Wilkinson is a former teacher in the public schools and currently an adjunct business law professor at Pillar College, and is a practicing technology and business lawyer. He thinks that the district needs fresh representation that can escape partisan bickering, not more of career politics, and he supports term limits. He wants to replace Obamacare as part of an economic package, reduce spending, lower taxes on business and the middle class, put education in the hands of local communities rather than Federal programs, protect life from womb to wheelchair, and recognize the special status of heterosexual marriage. He is outspoken about the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments, our freedom of religion, gun ownership, and protection from government monitoring of cell phone and internet activity. He is also committed to supporting Israel.
Neither candidate has responded to our request for an e-mail interview at this point.
District 6 is two-thirds white, about the average for New Jersey, and also average at about one fifth Hispanic. It is slightly below average at about one tenth black, but almost one fifth Asian, the highest of any district. Income is at the median, unemployment slightly below it, and high school and college graduates are both at the average for the state. Pallone has held the seat since 1993, and his predecessor was also a Democrat.
The 5th Congressional District includes the entire northwestern edge of the state, all but the southern part of Warren County, all but the southeast corner of Sussex County, all of Passaic County except the southeastern tail, and the northern bulk of Bergen County.
Republican incumbent Scott Garrett took office in 2003; he is New Jersey born and bred, with a Juris Doctore from Rutgers University, and he served a dozen years in the New Jersey General Assembly prior to taking this seat in the House. He is seen as an average Republican, voting with the party most of the time. His voting record suggests that he strongly opposes affirmative action, unrestricted abortion, Obamacare, homosexual marriage, increased taxes on the wealthy, citizenship for illegal immigrants, and green energy legislation. He strongly favors school vouchers, keeping God in the public arena, gun ownership rights, campaign funding limits, maintaining U.S. sovereignty against the United Nations, market-led economic recovery, involvement in Iran, and privatizing Social Security; he also favors placing human needs over animal rights, stricter criminal punishments, free trade, expanding the military, and legalizing marijuana. He has been called New Jersey's most conservative congressman.
His opponent Roy Cho is a first generation American born of Korean immigrants, and a newcomer to politics. He is putting significant emphasis on support for Israel in this highly Jewish district, including a whirlwind visit to the embattled nation next week to see the situation himself (although his itinerary as announced does not include visits to areas of current fighting). He speaks of bipartisan cooperation for the common good, and his campaign website gives policy positions in over a dozen areas. He seeks a comprehensive economic recovery plan that includes education and alternative energy funding, and reducing federal debt by making smart cuts in spending and stimulating the economy. He promises to protect Social Security and Medicare and Veteran's benefits, and wants to fix Obamacare. To help reduce partisanship in Congress, he would limit campaign contributions particularly from organizations. On major issues, he favors restrictions on assault weapons and ammunition clips, unregulated abortion, and homosexual marriage, speaks of protecting religious freedom, and of preventing animal cruelty. In local issues, he sees the importance of repairing and improving northern New Jersey roads and bridges. He wants to support small business but eliminate corporate tax loopholes, to invest in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, and to reward good teachers. To this point he has been an attorney doing business law in Hackensack, having received his Juris Doctore from Georgetown University and served as editor of that school's immigration law journal.
Neither candidate has responded to our invitation to be interviewed.
District 5 is four-fifths white; fewer than one in twenty are black, fewer than one in ten Asian, and about an eighth of the population is Hispanic. The high school graduation rate is second highest in the state, and the college graduation rate third. Unemployment is second lowest and median income third highest. Republican Garrett has always won the district with comfortable margins, and his predecessor Marge Roukema was also Republican.
The 4th Congressional District includes a small portion of Mercer County south and east of Trenton (but not the capital itself), most of Monmouth County but for the northeastern coastal regions (not Asbury Park), and the northwestern third of Ocean County.
In district 4, Republican incumbent Chris Smith was elected to the seat in 1980, and has held the seat since, making him New Jersey's senior Congressman; he was unopposed in the primary, and has won the seat comfortably repeatedly. His voting record suggests a more moderate right of center position as compared with Republicans generally, breaking more frequently with the party line. Based on his voting record, he strongly favors green energy, privatizing social security, keeping God in the public sphere, maintaining U.S. sovereignty as against the United Nations, and military involvement in Iran,and also favors school vouchers, campaign funding limits, economic stimulus programs, stricter criminal punishments, expanding the military. He is strongly against raising taxes on the rich, unrestricted abortion, same-sex marriage, and legalizing marijuana, and also disfavors affirmative action programs, free trade agreements, animal rights as against human needs, and citizenship for illegal immigrants. He appears to hold a neutral middle position on the issues of Obamacare and gun control. Smith has agreed to respond to our interview questions, and we are presently awaiting his answers.
His Democratic opponent Ruben Scolavino, who made an unsuccessful bid last year for Monmouth County Sheriff but was inspired to try his luck against a veteran politician. Some observers are speculating that he fully expects to lose, and is in the race mostly to make connections and win favor within the Democratic party in the hope of an appointed position in the future, perhaps in the judiciary. Most of the information about him online concerns his law practice, originally as a prosecutor in New York and for quite a few years a defense attorney specializing in (but not limited to) drunk driver cases. The bulk of his online campaign effort appears to be a Facebook page on which he has posted a few short posts taking mainline Democratic positions on less controversial issues (supporting equal pay for women, seeking economic reforms to address poverty in the state). His presence seems almost a token entry so that there will be a name under "Democrat" on the ballot. He has not responded to our invitation to be interviewed.
District 4 has the highest percentage of white voters in the state, with blacks slightly over and Asians slightly under one in twenty and Hispanics below one in ten. Unemployment is slightly below and median household income slightly above the state average, and graduation rates from high school and college are both slightly above average.
The 3rd Congressional District includes northwestern Burlington County and the middle third of Ocean County including Toms River.
With current incumbent Jon Runyan stepping down, the challengers are relatively unknown. Republican Tom MacArthur is a millionaire businessman previously serving in various positions including Mayor of Randolph, New Jersey. Democrat Aimee Belgard is a member of the Edgewater Park Township Committee, and has apparently been involved in working for the Burlington County Freeholders in some capacity.
MacArthur looks like a Reagan Republican, favoring smaller government and lower taxes. His track record suggests fiscal responsibility and effective management. He advocates a market-driven approach to jobs creation, a simpler tax code, a balanced budget amendment, and free market solutions to health care. Having helped maintain his town's triple-A bond rating from his experience as CEO of York Risk Services Group (an insurance company)�he has a solid record on fiscal matters. He is more moderate on other issues, wanting to protect Social Security and Medicare, but to repeal Obamacare, defend traditional marriage, and oppose abortion. He would strengthen the military, following Reagan's concept of peace through strength.
Belgard,a lawyer, is typically Democratic, vaguely defending women's health care decisions (implying but not stating abortion), environmental issues, and expanded educational opportunities. She speaks of protecting Social Security, Medicare, and veteran's benefits. She promises to revitalize New Jersey's economy without saying how, other than that she opposes the closure of military bases in the state due to the negative economic impact. She has been endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and by the Burlington County democratic party.
The district is four fifths white with about one in ten black, the lowest Asian population in the state at about one in thirty, and the lowest Hispanic population in the state at about one in thirteen. Unemployment is almost exactly average for the state, as is median household income. High school graduation rates are just above average, but college graduation rates are on the low side of the curve. Republican incumbent Jon Runyan edged out a slipping Democratic incumbent, John Adler, in the 2010 election, but Adler took it from the Republicans when incumbent Jim Saxton did not run in 2008; Runyan did not seek the nomination to run again this term. The district tends toward Republican, but frequently by narrow margins.
The 2nd Congressional District covers all of Salem, Cumberland, Cape May, and Atlantic Counties, the southern edge of Gloucester County, southeastern Burlington County, the northeast corner of Camden County, and the southern third of Ocean County. The cities of Salem, Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland, Cape May, Ocean City, and Atlantic City are all within this district, the largest by geographical area in the state.
Republican incumbent Congressman Frank Lobiondo has held the seat since 1995. His voting record suggests he strongly favors gun rights, green energy, stimulus plans, privatized social security, keeping God in the public sphere, stricter criminal punishment, animal rights, an expanded military, and involvement in Iran, and also favors affirmative action and campaign funding limits. He strongly opposes abortion, taxing the wealthy, yielding sovereignty to the United Nations, and legalizing marijuana, while also opposing Obamacare, free trade legislation, and easy citizenship for illegal immigrants. He has been neutral in regard to same-sex marriage. This mix of positions makes him a more moderate centrist Republican, frequently voting against the party line. The Tea Party fielded a candidate against him in the primary, but he won with more than four fifths of the vote.
It what might be considered a grudge match, his Democratic opponent Bill Hughes, Jr., is the son of the Congressman Bill Hughes from whom Lobiondo took the seat in the 1994 election. His campaign includes job creation, education funding, protecting social security, medicare, and veterans' benefits, improving Obamacare, women's pay and health issue equality, and fighting government waste.
Footnote: Lobiondo did not run against the senior Hughes; Congressman Hughes retired at the end of 1994, and Louis Magazzu ran on the democratic ticket that year.
The population of the district is three quarters white, slightly above the average for the state, with a roughly average black contingent of one in eight, Asian population second lowest in the state, and an about average one in six Hispanic. It has one of the lowest high school graduation rates, and the lowest college graduation rate, below one in four. Unemployment ties for second highest in the state, median income in the lower half. Lobiondo usually wins by strong margins, but took the seat from Democrat Bill Hughes in 1995.
Neither candidate has responded to our invitation to be interviewed.
The 1st Congressional District includes all of Camden County but the northeast corner, including Camden, and the northern two-thirds of Gloucester County including Glassboro.
The district has long been Democratic; Democratic incumbent Rob Andrews, who retired to a job in a private Philadelphia law firm, took the seat in 1990 from Democrat Jim Florio. The imprint of a Democratic political machine can be seen in the Democratic candidate, State Senator Donald Norcross. He is brother of the powerful "political boss" George Norcross, elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in 2009 and then, after one week in office, appointed to the New Jersey State Senate seat vacated in his district (when Democrat Dana Redd resigned to become Mayor of Camden). His background is solidly in labor unions, having worked for the Electrical Workers Union after obtaining an associates degree from Camden County College and serving in important positions in the AFL-CIO. He is presently the Assistant Majority Leader in the state senate. Most of what is promised on the website he shares with two Assemblymen from the legislative district concerns state issues; if he is running a campaign for national office, it is not yet evident.
Republican Garry Cobb brings a fair amount of name recognition as a former Philadelphia Eagles National Football League linebacker, local radio talk show host, and CBS television sportscaster. He supports prioritizing jobs through lower taxes and less business regulation, family through tax support for those raising children, senior care, and healthcare. On this last issue, he proposes that government officials should be required to accept the same health plan they impose on the citizens. Cobb showed an interest in being interviewed; we are awaiting his response to our questions.
The Democrats usually win the district easily; in 2002 the Republicans did not even list a candidate on the ballot. The district is over two-thirds white, one sixth black, one in twenty Asian, with about one in nine Hispanic. Unemployment is tied for highest in the state, but median household income is only slightly below average. High school graduation rate is average for the state, but college graduation rate lags, third lowest.
Tuesday, October 14th 2014, is the last day to register to vote in this year's November general election. If you are not registered, and you wish to vote or may wish to vote, you may register at the office of any county Commissioner of Registration, county welfare agency, some Municipal Clerks, and a few other locations. Many of these locations will be open until 9:00 P.M. on Tuesday.
Today, Tuesday, October 14th 2014, is the last day to register to vote in this year's November general election. If you are not registered, and you wish to vote or may wish to vote, you may register at the office of any county Commissioner of Registration, county welfare agency, some Municipal Clerks, and a few other locations. Many of these locations will be open until 9:00 P.M. tonight.
The first of the two ballot issues seems something of a no-brainer, one of those problems created by changes in the law that requires us to amend our state constitution to stay current. We have all seen courtroom dramas in which the judge says "bail is denied". Under our state constitution, that can be done in New Jersey if, and only if, the suspect is charged in a "capital crime"--one in which the death penalty is a potential sentence. The problem is, in 2007 New Jersey eliminated the death penalty, which incidentally eliminated the category of "capital crimes". Thus the purpose of the ballot issue is to change the constitution, removing reference to this now non-existent category and giving judges discretion to refuse bail in any case with a significant risk of flight, or a danger to innocent person or persons, or a likelihood of the defendant obstructing the criminal justice process (which would, presumably, include witness tampering). Everyone appears to favor it; it seems a necessary update.
The second issue is a bit more complicated. The New Jersey Open Space Preservation Funding Amendment, Public Question No. 2 (2014) is a shuffling of money. To grasp it you have to understand first that in New Jersey lawmakers are limited concerning what they can do with money on their own, and there are limits on what the state can do with money even with voter approval. The state has a "Corporation Business Tax", which is general revenue except that a constitutional amendment assigns four percent of this money to fund hazardous discharge cleanup, underground chemical storage tank improvements, and surface water quality projects. The new proposed amendment would discontinue that provision and fund those environmental issues from fines and damage judgements against violators of environmental laws, and instead earmark that money (the four percent of the corporate tax) plus an additional two percent for the next three decades to purchase historic sites, farmland, and open space--particularly space in previously flooded or flood-prone areas which might be used as buffer space against future flooding. Those who support it tout the importance of protecting our environment and preserving the "Garden State" portion of our state. Those who oppose it note that this is approximately four billion dollars being allocated permanently to these open space purchases by a state that is heavily overtaxed with underfunded state pension programs. The point raised against it thus is not that such expenditures are not important, but rather that we have other obligations for which the money could be used, and this action will make a large amount of money unavailable for these other purposes.
The amendment thus would (barring the passage of a future contravening amendment) assure the funding of these state land purchases against other possible financial choices, including if not tax relief the reduction of future tax increases. It is a priorities issue to be weighed carefully. Those legislators who have proposed and support the measure are attempting to tie their own hands--or more precisely, those of their successors in office--in regard to allocation of this part of the money; they want the voters to decide that this budget item is important enough that the legislature should not be able to spend the money elsewhere without voter approval, and in so doing deprive future budgets of control over that money. They expect that the political process, being so sensitive to public whim, will eventually decide something else is more important than these land acquisitions, and what our present legislators believe to be so important will fall out of a future budget. In that sense, they are attempting to control the state budgets of the future; of course, in fairness, it has been done before, and part of this bill undoes one such control.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker has barely been in the Senate for a year, but an analysis of his voting record shows a relatively moderate Democratic stance. He strongly favors vouchers and school choice, a typically conservative position. He also shows strong favor toward expanding the Affordable Care Act, the unrestricted right to abortion, a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, and animal rights. He also favors affirmative action, taxing the wealthy, promoting green energy, economic stimulus plans, same sex marriage, and legalizing marijuana. He is opposed to unrestricted gun rights, free trade agreements, expanding the military, and keeping God in the public sphere, and strongly opposes involvement in Iran. He appears to be neutral on the issue of stricter criminal punishment, and there is insufficient information to identify his position on other issues. His assets as cited by those who support him include that he is a friend of President Obama, that he is black, and that he has the support of many in the Hollywood entertainment establishment such as Oprah Winfrey.
Republican Jeff Bell has never won an elected office, and has not run since taking the Republican nomination from incumbent Senator Clifford Case and losing the general election to Senator Bill Bradley in 1978. He worked with the Reagan administration in promoting its market-driven supply side economic recovery program. His campaign promotes restoration of middle class prosperity through a shift in government policy away from support for the wealthy; real universal healthcare with a market-based cost control element; improved education through vouchers and tax credits; reigning in rampant abortion; and protection of religious belief and practice. Other stated policies include gun rights, opposing internet gambling and drug legalization, promoting statehood for Puerto Rico, and a robust energy policy. He has the endorsement of Forbes Media head Steve Forbes. Columnist George Will praises him as "idiosyncratic and invaluable because [he looks] at familiar things in unfamiliar ways, and leaven[s] politics with new agendas, such as restoring the Federal Reserve�s single mandate to preserve the currency as a store of value." He is close on Booker's heels in the polls, and has the chance of being the first candidate to upset an incumbent New Jersey Senator in a general election in over seventy years.
Last Friday we posted a quick look at the two candidates in our current New Jersey Senate race, incumbent Democrat Cory Booker and Republican challenger Jeff Bell, but the race has taken on national interest for a number of reasons. The top of the list is that it is close--closer than it ought to be, given all the circumstances.
Those circumstances begin with the fact that New Jersey has never failed to re-elect an incumbent Senator in a general election, and has not had a Republican Senator since Clifford Case was defeated in the 1978 primary. Then there is the fact that Booker swept the Democratic primary for the special election for this seat last year against formiddable opponents and then won a hard-fought battle against well-known Tea Party favorite Steve Lonagan for the position, while Bell is a virtual unknown whose name has not been much in the press since the Reagan years and who never won an elective office. Booker has raised more money than Bell by six to one, has outspent him, and has a huge national following. By all traditional measures, this ought to be a walk for Booker; he should be able to phone in his acceptance speech.
Yet recent polls have given Bell a fighting chance. Roughly a month from the election he was showing within nine percentage points of Booker, who was stuck at forty-eight percent of the vote unable to cross the golden half. Booker's disapproval rating has been rising as well. He is closely linked with President Obama, whose approval rating has plummetted taking Democrats with him everywhere. Meanwhile, investigations into City of Newark government scandals have implicated Booker--it was his police department currently under investigation for civil rights and civil liberties violations, and there are allegations of fraud in other departments under his tenure as Mayor. Meanwhile, it seems certain that many of his heartwarming personal stories are fabrications--there is no befriended drug dealer, no gunshot victim died in his arms, he rescued no one from a burning building. The Booker image is fraying, and the Hollywood support has been unable to bolster it.
On top of that, the anti-incumbency mood of the nation is felt here as well, making the long-Democratic seat vulnerable, particularly to a candidate like Bell who at seventy years old is unlikely to be starting a decades-long stretch in the office as so many others have done.
It is perhaps surprising that the Republican National Committee has not come to Bell's support; but then, Bell is not a particularly moderate or mainstream Republican, being an independent thinker with strongly conservative views but a few liberal attitudes in the mix--and his opponent Booker is a relatively moderate Democrat, supporting a number of policies unpopular in the party (the teachers unions do not like him, but would be no happier with Bell) particularly in economic views, although still solidly with the Democrats on the social issues. It is a tough race by any measure, and Booker still holds the lead--but not by enough that he can relax.
Of course, Booker beat Lonagan by a surprisingly slim margin, and close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Still, our freshman Senator probably does not sleep as well as he might. This race is not over.
There will be a debate on the 24th of the month--this coming Friday--which will be televised the following Sunday, October 26th, at 1:00 P.M. on WPVI-TV (Channel 6) in Philadelphia, and at 11:00 A.M. on WABC-TV (Channel 7) in New York, check local television listings in case of changes. The charismatic Booker will face the intelligent Bell. It will probably make a difference; at least it will put Bell's face in front of the television audience.
This past weekend New Jersey's Democratic incumbent Senator Cory Booker faced his Republican challenger Jeff Bell in their only agreed public debate. Booker has attempted to ignore Bell's candidacy, but in the modern world a refusal to debate suggests fear. The one-hour debate was televised by local ABC television affiliates, and is probably available through their websites, and those of C-Span and candidate Bell. Two moderators and three additional reporters reasonably representative of New Jersey asked the candidates a total of seventeen questions, and each of the candidates asked the other one question and made a closing statement. Questions covered immigration, economic problems, police and crime, and several other topics.
Booker has style; he is not without substance, but was the more predictable of the two candidates in terms of his positions and his responses. He repeatedly spoke of his efforts to work "across the aisle" (a phrase used repeatedly), and attempted to characterize Bell as a tea party obstructionist. Most of his responses followed the Democratic party line, although he did say that he thought the President was wrong to delay executive action on immigration until after the election, despite the fact that embattled Democrats thought such an action would harm their chances in this election. Some of his answers seemed to be equivocations; he was called on the point that he would not give an unequivocal no to the possibility of allowing a casino in northern New Jersey, although he strongly emphasized that it would depend on its impact on Atlantic City.
Bell is that rare breed, an independent thinker. Most of his positions are conservative, both economically and socially. He wants reduced government, believes that the Federal Reserve is hurting the economy, and stands against gay marriage and abortion--but more importantly believes that such issues should be decided by the democratic process through discussion and debate, not by judicial fiat or executive order. He highlighted his work in bipartisan efforts on tax reform and on immigration; on the latter, he thinks a complete overhaul of the system is needed, including a path to citizenship for illegals. He characterized Booker as an Obama Democrat, who will continue the status quo instead of finding workable solutions to the existing problems.
Booker also attacked the fact that Bell has been living in Virginia for the past thirty-one years, returning this past winter to enter the Senate race. Bell was a New Jersey resident who previously ran for Senate from New Jersey, and has since been working in Washington to attempt to move the political system toward solutions he believes viable; having met with little success, he has returned to run again for office from his home state.
Bell challenged the payments Booker received from his former law firm, which paid him close to seven hundred thousand dollars over seven years while he was mayor while receiving millions in city contracts particularly connected to the "watershed agency". Federal investigations may be bringing indictments in that case, and although Booker claims that he informed Federal authorities as soon as he himself recognized that there might be illegal activities, some think it likely he will be included in the indictments. Booker asserts that the payments he received were outlined in a contract which cannot be made public because it contains financial information about others in the firm.
In short, Booker would characterize Bell as an obstructionist conservative who would return to past policies and principles and refuse to cooperate with the present administration, and would characterize himself as someone willing to help New Jersey residents while working in a bipartisan environment. Bell would characterize Booker as an Obama supporter whose views will result in more of the same crippling economic conditions and failed policies of the recent past, and himself as someone willing to explore different policies and work with both parties to discuss options and come to effective solutions.
Quick polls since the debate suggest that Booker is still ahead, but with a serious caveat. Booker holds the majority of Democrats and Bell the majority of Republicans, registered Democrats significantly outnumbering registered Republicans in the state, but the significant contingent of independents in the state lean strongly toward Bell--strongly enough that a low Democratic turnout could give Bell the win. The race is not over.
Today is Election Day. In New Jersey, polls are open until eight this evening. (They opened at six this morning, so by the time you read this they will already have opened--and hopefully not yet closed.)
Conventional wisdom suggests that all political writers today should encourage everyone to vote. As I said at primary time, though, I would just as soon you did not vote if you know nothing about the candidates or the issues. Many will vote for someone because he has a party label--and while in some cases voting for the right party is justified, it is frequently the case that another candidate better represents your view and has a chance of winning if voters recognize that. Particularly in New Jersey, political races tend to be one-sided--in some areas voters always support one party without even knowing the name of the candidate; in some, the incumbent will be re-elected because no one has taken the time to discover who the opponent is. There are a lot of surprisingly good candidates running against an entrenched adversary, from the Senate race down through the Representatives. You ought to vote; but of first importance, before you vote, you ought to learn who it is for whom you are voting.
You should also inform yourself about the issues. Too many voters vote for a candidate "because he is black" or "she is a woman". It is not enough to know that a particular candidate supports or opposes the DREAM Act, or Obamacare, or the pipeline, or stimulus plans; you should understand why the candidate holds that position, what the arguments are, and how much merit they have. Sometimes a candidate is labeled as favoring women's issues, or supporting blacks or Hispanics or other groups, but what a special interest group believes is best for a particular demographic is not necessarily the best policy for the state, nor even for that demographic. An increase in the minimum wage (on the New Jersey ballot last year) might mean greater individual income for some, but also very likely means fewer jobs, a slower economy, and a boost to inflation. No one wants to make America worse for anyone; we just disagree concerning what is better and how to achieve it. If you do not understand why others disagree with your position (or if you accuse them of selfish or prejudicial reasons without genuinely hearing them), then you probably do not really understand your own position--you certainly do not understand its flaws, and that is something you ought to know even if once you have understood them you retain your position.
If you are reading this article, you have the ability to inform yourself. This column has provided a snapshot view of all the candidates in the major races, a brief explanation of the two ballot questions, and candidate interviews with those candidates who took the time to respond to our questions. Some of those articles are linked below; all are here, and in our primary coverage and candidate interviews. You can find more by searching candidate names on the Internet, and particularly on sites like Ballotopedia.
So sometime before eight tonight, get to your local polling place and cast a vote; between now and then, be certain you have some understanding of what you are going to support and why.
The short version is that the ballot questions were approved, all incumbents running for re-election kept their seats, and in the three districts in which the incumbent was not on the ballot the party in control retained control. Now for a few of the details.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Cory Booker again won by a narrow but comfortable margin with around fifty-six percent of the vote against Jeff Bell's forty-two percent; each of five independent candidates claimed less than one percent.
The passing of the bail reform question means that judges in New Jersey will be able once more to deny bail to defendants who are particularly dangerous or flight risks; the question passed easily. The open space funding question means that a substantial amount of state income is committed to farmland preservation and flood zone acquisition for the next several decades; this vote was a little closer, but still a clear strong win for the question.
In the congressional districts:
It is perhaps the scourge of political writing. As the election neared, there was much to write and many readers; we covered the candidates in major races with comparative articles and interviews, and looked at the ballot questions, and the closer we got to the election itself the more readers seeking information pored over what we offered. We posted our election results summary just after midnight the morning after the election, and it reached a significant number of residents wanting to know the outcomes. And now the election is over, and like retail sales right after Christmas traffic drops precipitously. After all, what is there to cover, and who cares?
That is, of course, a rather jaded view of the political world. Right now the Supreme Court is selecting cases to address in its upcoming term, and the issues impact all of us. A decision on whether homosexual marriage is implicitly guaranteed in the Constitution seems inevitable. It appears that the Affordable Care Act--Obamacare--might collapse as the Court has granted certiorari (which means they have agreed to hear a case that they are not forced to hear) to a challenge regarding whether federal subsidies can go to those who bought insurance through the federal exchange, or are restricted to those in states which have state exchanges. Significant issues will be decided, and will change the face of law one way or another.
Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled Senate is entering its lame duck session; come January the Republicans will hold the majority in the Senate, and the President will be the more besieged. Granted, with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, there is little hope of ramming through any last-minute legislation--but the "advice and consent of the Senate" is part of the executive and judicial appointment process, so we might see a rush to get a few more judges, ambassadors, and an attorney general, a surgeon general and maybe hundreds more in place before that becomes a bigger battleground.
There is also the danger of a divide within the Republican party. It is true of both parties that they have their moderates and their extremists; it is also true that both have extremists of various stripes. Republicans who pushed for moral and social conservatism will assert that the moral majority has given the legislature to the Republicans to fight for traditional marriage and against abortion. Those who ran on conservative economic policies will see a mandate for lower taxes, supply side economics, and reduced regulation of businesses. Those whose constituents were concerned about immigration will want to address border control and deportation of illegal aliens. Meanwhile, the moderates will insist that what the country wants is to end the gridlock and create a government willing and able to address issues. Already moderate Republican legislative leaders have asked President Obama not to take any brash executive steps on immigration reform so as to avoid backlash from certain conservative branches until some kind of effort toward an immigration reform compromise can be made (and the President has taken the public position that he will not wait). Just because the Republicans control both houses of the legislature does not mean there is a monolithic agreement on legislative policy; on the contrary, it is as likely to mean paralysis from infighting as those of various views each claim that they represent the true opinion of the American people, the constituency which gave them that majority. We have spoken before of polarization, and of the complications of coalition government and the nature of compromise necessary to form a political party. It remains to be seen whether the Republicans can hold their party together.
The election has past, but the political world is becoming even more interesting in its wake. We hope that you will stay with us as we explore some of the new issues in the months ahead.