2018 was a wave year in New Jersey, with Democrats holding on to a U.S. Senate seat they’ve held since 1958, and New Jersey’s 5th district, as well as flipping the 2nd, 3rd, and 7th districts.
One of the most impressive performances by a Democrat nationwide was by Rep. Mikie Sherill (D-Montclair) in the 11th district. She won flipped a seat Republicans had held for 35 years by a 14.7% margin, a swing of over 30% from the 2016 percentage of outgoing Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding).
While Sherrill has staked out a position as a left of center Democrat and joined the moderate House Blue Dog Caucus along with Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis), there has been no talk of a primary challenge like the one Gottheimer faces.
Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, enjoyed considerable support in the last election from progressive groups. Indeed, it was the grassroots NJ 11th for Change that essentially forced Frelinghuysen, the powerful House Appropriations Committee chairman, unhappily into retirement and helped clear the way for Sherrill to win.
Hillary Clinton carried the 11th district by a large 22.3% margin over Bernie Sanders.
She carried all but 9 of the district’s 54 municipalities, with most of her losses being isolated to Sussex County, which makes up a small portion of the 11th. Clinton won the Essex, Morris, and Passaic portions of the districts, which combined account for over 95% of the votes cast in the district in the 2016 primary.
Clinton carried the Essex County portion of the district by a margin of 29.78%. She carried the county by 10,956 votes over Sanders. Nearly half of the votes cast in this district in the 2016 Presidential Primary came from the Essex County portion of the district, with 45.58% of the district’s 80,721 votes cast, originating in this district. Clinton won Montclair, Sherill’s town, and the largest municipality in Essex located in the 11th district, by 3,207 votes over Sander.
In the Morris County portion of the district, Clinton won by a margin of 18.78%. She carried the county by 5,763 votes against Sanders. 38% of the votes cast in the district in the 2016 presidential primary were cast in the Morris County portion of the district. Clinton won Parsippany-Troy Hills, the largest municipality in the Morris County portion of the 11th district by 565 votes over Sanders, which was not her largest win in the county, as she defeated him in Morris Township by a 1,001-vote margin of the 2,789 votes cast.
Clinton carried the Passaic County portion of the district by a margin of 15.5%. She carried the county by 1,525 votes over Sanders. Most of the Democratic bastions of Passaic County are located in the neighboring 9th district, with the Passaic portion of the 11th district accounting for 12.18% of votes cast in their districts 2016 presidential primary. Clinton won Wayne, the largest municipality in the Passaic portion of the 11th district by 715 votes over Sanders.Sanders carried the Sussex County portion of the district by a margin of 6.64%. He carried the county by 227 votes in his race against Clinton. This Republican stronghold only counted for a tiny 4.24% of votes cast in the 11th district for the 2016 presidential primary. Sussex and neighboring Warren county were the only two counties that Sanders carried in New Jersey during the 2016 Primaries. Sanders won Sparta Township, the largest municipality in the Sussex County portion of the district by 51 votes over Clinton, out of 1,471 votes cast.
Hypothetically, for a progressive to win in this district, the candidate would have to improve upon Sander’s margins in Essex and Morris county, both of which combined make up a large majority of any Democratic Primary Electorate in this district.