Come January 2023, either Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) or former Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Paul DeGroot will hold a seat in Congress. And based on their answers in the New Jersey Globe-hosted 11th district congressional debate, both are free agents when it comes to House leadership.
“I’m not a McCarthy person, I’m not anybody’s person. I’m my own person,” DeGroot said when asked if he’d support current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “I’m not going to pledge my allegiance to Congressman McCarthy or any leader at this point.”
DeGroot tried to hit Sherrill for supposedly voting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2020, but his intel was faulty; Sherrill has never supported Pelosi in any leadership election, voting for Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois) in 2018 and voting present in 2020. Sherrill reaffirmed her commitment to seeking out “new leadership,” a task likely made easier by Pelosi’s promise to give up the speaker’s gavel after this term.
“I will be supporting somebody for leader or speaker that I think has the best interest of the United States at heart,” she said. “I haven’t settled on anyone yet. It won’t, as usual, be Nancy Pelosi.”
DeGroot and Sherrill also declined to take clear sides in the 2024 presidential primaries, in which President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both likely to run.
Sherrill, who endorsed Senator Cory Booker and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg before ultimately siding with Biden in 2020, said that she has worked well with the Biden administration over the last two years. Directly questioned on whether Biden would be her “first choice” in 2024, the congresswoman offered only a commitment to support the president if he is nominated by the Democratic Party.
“If he is the Democrat running for [president], I will be supporting him,” Sherrill said.
DeGroot, meanwhile, put some distance between himself and Trump, who lost the new 11th district by 17 points in 2020. Asked if Trump would be his first choice for the presidency in two years, DeGroot said he was running his own congressional campaign distinct from Trump’s influence.
“In my campaign … I have not sought Donald Trump’s endorsement, nor has he offered his endorsement, nor have I campaigned on his endorsement,” he said. “My policies and my agenda [are] what’s right for CD-11.”