Home>Campaigns>Gottheimer defeats Pallotta in 5th congressional district

Rep. Josh Gottheimer at the groundbreaking for the Portal North Bridge. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Gottheimer defeats Pallotta in 5th congressional district

Congressman will likely end with solid margin against repeat foe

By Joey Fox, November 08 2022 11:41 pm

The New Jersey Globe projects that Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) has won re-election, defeating Republican Frank Pallotta in the 5th congressional district.

As of [TIME] and with an estimated 78% of votes reported, Gottheimer leads Pallotta by a margin of 58%-41%, though that may change when the remaining votes are counted.

Regardless of the final margin, Gottheimer and New Jersey Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief after a year spent worrying about a Republican tsunami that didn’t come to pass.

Gottheimer, a former speechwriter in President Bill Clinton’s administration, first ran for Congress in 2016 against Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage).

Garrett had represented the 5th district, which included northern Bergen County as well as more rural areas to the west, for 14 years and never faced a serious challenge. But Gottheimer, who recognized that Garrett’s social conservatism made him a potentially vulnerable target, unseated him 51%-47%.

Gottheimer’s next two contests were easier; he won 56%-43% against former Cresskill Councilman John McCann in 2018 and 53%-46% against Pallotta in 2020.

In the meantime, Gottheimer became one of the House’s most prominent moderates as well as one of its best fundraisers. As of his most recent fundraising report, the so-called Human Fundraising Machine had almost $14 million still in his bank account.

Pallotta, whose first loss was less of a blowout than many expected, announced a rematch campaign in April 2021. He managed to upset U.S. Marine Corps veteran Nick De Gregorio in the Republican primary; De Gregorio had the support of Bergen Republicans and was the choice of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but Pallotta eked out a 50%-46% win.

That was probably the outcome Gottheimer wanted. After all, a mailer linked to Gottheimer was sent out during the Republican primary accusing Pallotta of being “too much like Trump,” a clear ploy to sway Republican voters towards him.

And just as Gottheimer had hoped, Pallotta struggled to make the 5th district into a top-tier race. The self-funding Pallotta deployed in his 2020 campaign was nowhere to be seen and he spent less than $700,000 total, allowing Gottheimer to blanket the district with largely uncontested messaging.

Pallotta also took some conservative positions that likely didn’t help him win over swing voters. He pledged his support for federal abortion restrictions – a position he briefly walked back at one point only to reaffirm it a few hours later – and his quote from a 2020 debate calling the far-right Oath Keepers “good people” continually haunted his campaign.

During congressional redistricting, the 5th district was also redrawn to be more Democratic by taking in more of Bergen County and less rural Republican territory. The new lines would have backed Joe Biden by 12 points and Gov. Phil Murphy by just under one percentage point; most election forecasters considered it to be a Likely Democratic race.

But with many polls showing Democrats struggling in House races across the country, a Gottheimer victory wasn’t guaranteed. A last-minute spending spree from former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was a sign that Democrats didn’t see the seat as fully secure (though Bloomberg’s decision to wade into the race was likely due in part to Gottheimer endorsing his presidential bid in 2020).

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