Only One Congressional District in N.J. Considered Competitive in 2014

New Jersey is a decidedly purple state at the moment. Nearly half of the registered voting population is not affiliated with either major party. Voters have elected a Republican governor, two Democratic senators, and mostly supported Obama in 2008 and 2012. Currently, six Democrats and six Republicans represent New Jersey in the U.S. House.

However, despite a broad shift within the New Jersey electorate away from the Republican and Democratic parties, most of these congressional districts have a long history of not producing competitive elections. This is the result of decades of partisan gerrymandering and election laws designed to favor the Republican and Democratic parties.

 

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Except for a few cases, this has all but made general elections mandate-affirming exercises.

In many districts, primaries are the most important races even though they are open to only registered members of the Republican and Democratic parties. This gives millions of New Jerseyans a constitutionally-questionable ultimatum: Join a political party — a private organization — or give up your right to equal participation in the voting process.

Out of 12 congressional districts, only one is expected to have a competitive race in 2014. Here is how the congressional races in New Jersey break down:

Congressional District 1

The election features Garry Cobb, a Republican and former Philadelphia Eagles player, against Donald Norcross, a Democrat, as well as a host of smaller party candidates, including Scot John Tomaszewski, Mike Berman, Margaret Chapman, Donald Letton, and Robert Shapiro.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews (D) had held the seat since 1990, but resigned in February amidst an ethics investigation and a pending job offer from a Philadelphia law firm. Cobb has struggled with fundraising and Norcross is the heavy favorite in the strong Democratic district.

Prediction: Safe Democrat

Congressional District 2

This race features incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican, against Bill Hughes Jr, a Democrat, and independent candidates Constantino Rozzo, Alexander Spano, Bayode Olabisi, and Gary Stein. LoBiondo is a 10-term incumbent and has a huge fundraising advantage, almost $1.6 million to Hughes’ $396,000.

The polls vary widely in this race, with a recent Monmouth University poll predicting LoBiondo with a 21-point lead and a Richard Stockton College poll suggesting LoBiondo only has a 6-point lead. However, looking at past election results, the closest LoBiondo has come to being defeated was in 2012 when he garnered 57.7 percent of the vote — not exactly a tight race.

Prediction: Safe Republican

Congressional District 3

In this Southern Jersey district, Democrat Aimee Belgard, Republican Tom MacArthur, and Democratic-Republican Party (DRP) candidate Frederick John LaVergne are all running to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan. Heading into the last month of the campaign, a Richard Stockton College poll had the race in a dead heat, although 12 percent of respondents were still undecided.

MacArthur is the former mayor of Randolph and Belgard has served as a Burlington County freeholder. The National Democratic Party has poured money into the race, but the unpopularity of Democrats in the election cycle has made this more of a liability. MacArthur has attacked Belgard’s ties to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

With a history that favors Republican candidates and some polls showing a slight lead for MacArthur, he is the favorite to win the district, but only slightly.

Prediction: Competitive, leans Republican

Congressional District 4

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Smith is running against Democrat Ruben Scolavino and DRP candidate Scott Neuman. In a solidly Republican district and 16 terms behind him, Smith is the heavy favorite. Scolavino is a political newcomer who is at best a “sacrificial lamb” in the non-competitive district.

Prediction: Safe Republican

Congressional District 5

In this race, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett faces Roy Cho, a Democrat, and independent Mark Quick. A poll from Monmouth University recently had Garrett with a 5-point lead in his effort to win a seventh term in the House.

Cho, a lawyer and son of immigrant parents, has capitalized on Garrett’s unpopularity in his failure to respond immediately to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the destruction it caused in the district. The power of incumbency, however, is expected to help the congressman retain his seat. Garrett won by a 12-point margin in the 2012 general election.

Prediction: Likely Republican

Congressional District 6

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D) is facing Anthony Wilkinson of the Republican Party and Dorit Goikhman, a Libertarian. Pallone, who is running for his fourteenth term, is popular in the heavily Democratic district and is widely expected to coast to an easy victory.

Prediction: Safe Democrat

Congressional District 7

This congressional race also features a strong incumbent, Leonard Lance, a Republican, against Democrat Janice Kovach and independent Jim Gawron. Lance was elected to Congress in 2008 and his district became significantly more Republican after redistricting in 2010. Lance faced a tough primary challenge, barely squeaking out a victory versus a more conservative opponent, and he is largely expected to retain his seat.

Prediction: Safe Republican

Congressional District 8

Democratic U.S. Rep. Albio Sires is facing Jude Anthony TIscornia from the Republican Party and three independent candidates, Pablo Olivera, Hebert Shaw, and Robert Thorne. The district is heavily Democratic. Sires, born in Cuba, has been a representative since 2006 and is expected to win in a landslide.

Prediction: Safe Democrat

Congressional District 9

Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell is running for re-election against Republican Deirdre Paul and independent Nestor Montilla. Pascrell has been a member of Congress since 1996 and holds a distinct fundraising advantage over his opponents.

Paul is a moderate Republican who is active in the NAACP and self-identifies as a Frederick Douglass Republican. Despite this, Pascrell is predicted to win easily.

Prediction: Safe Democrat

Congressional District 10

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D) is running for re-election in the solidly Democratic district against Republican Yolanda Dentley and independents Dark Angel and Gwendolyn Franklin. Payne is a freshman congressman who replaced his father in the district after he passed away in 2012. Dentley is a political newcomer who has a background in education. The strength of the Democrats in the district points to an easy victory for Payne.

Prediction: Safe Democrat

Congressional District 11

In a safely Republican district, U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is running against Democratic challenger Mark Dunec. Frelinghuysen first won a seat in Congress in 1994 and has never had a close election in 10 campaigns. Although Dunec has received endorsements from major Democrats in the area, including former Governor Richard Codey, his chances appear slim.

Prediction: Safe Republican

Congressional District 12

With U.S. Rep. Rush Holt retiring after 16 years in Congress, his seat is being contested by Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat, who Holt has endorsed, Alieta Eck, a Republican, Steven Welzer of the Green Party, and independents Kenneth Cody, Allen Cannon, Don Dezarn, and Jack Freudenheim.

Despite it being an open seat, the district is strongly Democratic, even more so after recent redistricting. Coleman has outraised Eck many times over and no candidate is seen as a serious rival for her, meaning that if predictions hold true, New Jersey will finally have a woman representative again.

Prediction: Safe Democrat

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Photos Source: The State-Ledger