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Rep. Josh Gottheimer. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Gottheimer will go without a Democratic primary challenger in 2022

Moderate congressman was challenged from the left two years ago

By Joey Fox, April 05 2022 4:46 pm

The Huffington Post called him “the most conservative Democrat in Congress.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called him the “Tea Party” of the Democratic caucus.

And the New Jersey Division of Elections calls him “unopposed in the Democratic primary.”

Since Democrats retook control of the House of Representatives in 2018, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) has been a common target of criticism from the leftier wings of his party. The moderate North Jersey congressman has frequently feuded with fellow members like Ocasio-Cortez, and last year garnered attention for leading a group of nine Democrats who tried to buck House leadership’s plans to pass the Build Back Better package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill concurrently. 

But yesterday marked the filing deadline for New Jersey congressional candidates, and Gottheimer escaped without drawing a single primary opponent.

“I’m focused on fighting for the families of the 5th district – working with Democrats and Republicans to lower taxes and gas prices, invest in law enforcement, and make prescription drugs more affordable,” the congressman said of his preemptive primary victory.

As of three months ago, Gottheimer has amassed a staggering warchest of $12 million, a daunting sum for any upstart primary challenger to go up against; he also has a record of beating back opposition from the left.

In 2020, the congressman faced a serious challenge from Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, who got the backing of left-wing groups like the New Jersey Working Families Party (NJWFP) and the Sunrise Movement. Kreibich said that Gottheimer was “Trump’s favorite Democrat” and argued that the district needed a representative who would vote against the then-president more often.

She never made much headway with the local Democratic party organizations or matched Gottheimer on fundraising, however, and ended up losing by a 67-33% margin in the primary. 

Now a staffer for NJWFP, Kreibich said that progressive groups still intend to push Gottheimer left even if they’re not directly running against him.

“Just because Josh Gottheimer isn’t facing a primary challenge doesn’t mean that we’re not preparing to hold him accountable to the needs of his constituents – instead of his corporate donors,” she said. “We’re going to continue to work with progressives and grassroots advocates across CD-5 to push him to support President Biden’s agenda to tackle climate change, ensure tax fairness and create good-paying union jobs for working families across New Jersey.”

Gottheimer still faces a potentially difficult campaign ahead of him in the general election. Three serious Republicans have filed to take him on, and although the state’s new congressional map made the 5th district more Democratic by adding a larger section of Bergen County, national election forecasters still view the seat as being in play.

But while those Republicans duke it out for the June 7 primary, Gottheimer will be skating by opponent-free – and can set his sights firmly on November.

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