If Bergen County native Matt Mowers wins his race for Congress, he’ll be the first New Jersey native to represent New Hampshire’s first district since onetime Trenton resident Robert C. Smith gave up his seat in 1990 to run for the United States Senate.
Smith said he hasn’t taken sides in the race for his old seat, but said he knew Mowers, who moved to New Hampshire in 2013 to become executive director of the state GOP.
Mowers’ New Jersey roots won’t be an obstacle to running for Congress in New Hampshire, the state’s former two-term senator said.
“Matt has been involved with the party,” Smith told the New Jersey Globe. “He’s paid his dues. I don’t see any problem with any of the party folks.”
Smith grew up in Trenton and Allentown before moving to New Hampshire. He lived in the Granite State for about ten years before running for office: an unsuccessful bid for the GOP congressional nomination in 1980. He won the primary in 1982 but lost the general to a four-term Democratic incumbent.
On his third try, Smith won the 1st district House seat by 19 percentage points in 1984 and was easily re-elected twice.
In 1990, Smith was elected to an open U.S. Senate seat by a 2-1 margin against John Durkin, a Democrat who had won a Senate seat in the Watergate landslide and served a single term.
In the Senate, Smith chaired the Select Committee on Ethics and the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Smith briefly sought the Republican nomination for president in 2000 and then briefly left the GOP to explore an independent run. In 2002, he lost the GOP Senate primary to John Sununu.
The 78-year-old former senator says he doesn’t typically get involved in local politics anymore. He backed Ted Cruz in 2016 and then supported Donald Trump.
Mowers ran Chris Christie’s New Hampshire campaign that year and became a top strategist in Trump’s general election campaign.
In 2017, Mowers went to Washington, temporarily, to work at the U.S. Department of State as a senior White House advisor and as chief of staff and chief policy officer in the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.
He his political career as a teenager working for State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest).