Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s progressive challenger feels good going into the final days of the primary.
“One of the biggest problems that primary challengers face is do they have the resources just for voters to know who they are and what they stand for so that they recognize that name on the ballot, so I feel glad that I think we have been able to put together resources and the quality campaign to get our message to voters,” Arati Kreibich’s campaign manager Alexander Deatrick said.
Though Kreibich’s fundraising total lags millions behind the incumbent’s — through June 17, Kreibich had raised $474,812 to the $5.3 million Gottheimer raised over the same period, making his warchest total roughly $8 million — the challenger has launched numerous online ads savaging Gottheimer over his moderate voting record.
Still, Gottheimer’s spending on such ads dwarfs that of his primary opponent. Through July 3, Kreibich had spent $19,959 on Facebook and Instagram ads, with $3,375 of that spending coming between June 27 and July 3.
Gottheimer spent $10,764 over the latter period, and $204,034 since the start of the race.
By Sunday, Kreibich was running just two digital ads, each touting an endorsement from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and attacking the congressman as President Donald “Trump’s favorite Democrat.”
Meanwhile Gottheimer was running more than 60, most touting endorsements from district Democrats, national figures like House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), and groups like the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Sierra Club.
Kreibich is seldom mentioned in those spots.
Though both campaigns have put resources behind direct mail, neither has gone up on the air.
“We’re doing a lot of digital advertising. We’re doing a lot of direct mail,” Deatrick said. “That’s how we’re getting our message to voters right now.”
Neither campaign is going door-to-door, citing COVID-19 concerns, and while Kreibich’s campaign attended a Fourth of July parade in Glen Rock, where she sits on the borough council, both campaigns have largely eschewed in-person events.
In their place, both have turned to the phones, with Gottheimer’s campaign making more than 400,000 calls and sending out more than 131,000 texts over the last months, according to sources close the campaign.
Per those sources, Gottheimer has 3,621 yard signs out, 675 volunteers and 201 interns.
“I’m deeply grateful to the hundreds of dedicated volunteers and interns who have made hundreds of thousands of calls on behalf of my campaign,” Gottheimer said. “I’m honored to have their energetic support, not to mention the support of Senator Booker, Speaker Pelosi, all four County Democratic Committees, the Congressional Black Caucus, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and scores of others.”
The challenger is also conducting no-contact literature drops.
“We don’t know who might be immunocompromised or who might be opening the door,” Deatrick said. “It’s just better to play it safe.”
Despite the cash deficit and the wave on institutional support Gottheimer has in his second re-election bid, Kreibich’s campaign feels their chances are good.
“I’ve always felt that Arati is someone where we don’t need anything too complicated. She’s a really exceptional candidate. She has exceptional experience. She has a great platform that voters like when they learn more about it,” Deatrick said. “Given that we’ve been able to get that to the voters, I think we’re in as good a position as we could want to be right now.”