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Democratic congressional candidate Stephanie Schmid

District shopping may be only path for a Democrat running for Congress

Three Chris Smith opponents have recently moved to the 4th district

By David Wildstein, September 06 2019 3:06 pm

For a New Jersey Democrat who wants to run for Conrgess but is either too impatient to await a retirement or unwilling to challenge an incumbent in a primary, running against Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) is the only game in town.

Three candidates seeking to challenge the last standing Republican in the New Jersey congressional delegation have just recently moved to the state and have few ties to the 4th district.

Stephanie Schmid, a former State Department foreign service officer who formally launched her run against Smith today, grew up in Ridgewood and lived in Washington and Pittsburgh for more than a decade, interspersed with overseas diplomatic assignments.   She purchased a home in Little Silver in July, property records show.

The only real tie Schmid may have to her new district is that as a sixteen-year-old high school student, she worked as an unpaid intern in Smith’s Washington office.

“Is it opportunistic to choose the remaining place in the state with a Republican? Absolutely,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Center for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.  “Would it be fair to question how well she knows the district? For sure.”

What may be more problematic for Schmid is a spotty voting record in Washington, D.C.

Schmid missed voting in the 2014 general elections and didn’t vote in primary and general election campaigns for mayor of Washington, D.C, according to voting records obtained by the New Jersey Globe.

She said she missed some local District of Columbia elections will working overseas for the State Department and cited difficulties in casting overseas absentee ballots for local elections.

Still, Rasmussen said that he doesn’t expect residency issues to be the reason why voters pull the lever in a race for Congress.

Like other Members of Congress, Smith maintains dual residences in New Jersey and the Washington area.

Two other Smith challengers are recent transplants to New Jersey.

David Applefield, a former journalist, voted in Massachusetts between 2000 and 2016 and registered to vote in Red Bank last March.  Lobbyist Tiffany Kaszuba, who grew up in the 4th district, voted in Maryland in 2018 and Virginia in 2016 and hasn’t been registered in New Jersey since 2012.

Another potential candidate, former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady, jumped districts in 2016 in a bid to run in the neighboring 3rd district and then in 4th in an unsuccessful 2018 primary bid.  Asbury Park is in the 6th, where Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) is an entrenched incumbent.

Allegations of district shopping have failed in recent New Jersey House races and voters will need to decide if they want to differentiate between a candidate returning home to their district to run for Congress and blatant district shopping.

Last year, Democrats nominated Josh Welle, a retired U.S. Navy officer who voted in Virginia in 2016 and 2017, to run against Smith.  Welle raised $1.8 million  and Smith beat him by 36,299 votes (55%-43%).

Tom MacArthur was serving as mayor of Randolph in Morris County when a House seat in a Burlington-Ocean district opened up.  He moved to Toms River and won a Republican primary against Steve Lonegan, who has served as mayor of Bogota in Bergen County

Democrat Andy Kim, who grew up in Marlton, returned to New Jersey after serving on the Obama White House staff and unseated MacArthur in 2018.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) called Democrat Tom Malinowski a carpetbagger in his unsuccessful bid for re-election last year, even though Malinowski grew up in a town that adjoins the district and established residence there in 2017 after living in Washington during his time as Assistant

Attacks on the residency of Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat who entered the race for Congress while House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen was still a candidate for re-election, went nowhere.  Sherrill lives in the part of Montclair that is in the 10th district, represented by Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark), although she could potentially throw a football from her home into the district she now represents.

Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) is already making an issue out of the residency of one of his opponents, former Hill International CEO David Richter.  Richter lives in Princeton and is looking for a home in the 2nd district while he challenges Van Drew.

Earlier this year, the fledgling campaign of Republican Reinier Pritjen collapsed almost as quickly as it started.  Pritjen was a New Yorker living in Los Angeles who announced his bid to challenge Sherrill before he had ever lived in New Jersey.

Editor’s Note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Schmid as missing votes in Washington, D.C. between 2009 and 2011.  She was registered to vote in Pittsburgh at the time and Washington did not purge her from the voting rolls.

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