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Musical Chairs: Northern NJ Democrats compete to shed GOP towns

Gottheimer, Sherrill and Malinowski could be in a redistricting warette if all three win in 2020

By David Wildstein, May 30 2019 12:01 am


There is a Congressional Prayer Room in the U.S. Capitol where a stained glass window depicts George Washington kneeling and displays the words “Preserve me, O God.”

It’s easy to imagine that late at night, after the House session is over, Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill meet there — to pray for Tom Kean.

Gottheimer, Sherill and Tom Malinowski are all Democrats who have flipped longtime Republican House seats over the last three years.  All three districts are, at least on paper, Republican leaning.

If they survive the 2020 general election, all three would be looking to shed some of the more Republican areas of their districts when New Jersey’s congressional map is redrawn for the 2022 elections.

The simple analysis is that northwestern New Jersey has three Democratic House members representing what is really two Democratic districts.

Kean ousting Malinowski next year solves redistricting worries for Gottheimer and Sherrill because the Republican would happily take everything the Democrats don’t want.

And if Malinowski wins and either Gottheimer or Sherrill loses, the end game remains the same.

If Malinowski, Sherrill and Gottheimer all win next year, its pits the three in an internal warette over who gets Republican towns none of them want.

The result could be three congressional districts that remain politically competitive until the 2030s.

Gottheimer prefers to shed the western part of his district: parts of Sussex and Warren counties, and his few towns in northern Passaic.  He lost that region by 12 points to John McCann last year.

Optimally, he would like to replace this territory with Bergen County municipalities currently represented by Bill Pascrell.

Pascrell told the New Jersey Globe last September that he would happily represent every town in Passaic County.  Republican parts of his home county do not frighten him at all.

A safe district for Sherrill would be for some of the heavily Republican towns in Sussex County shift to Kean, and the Passaic portion of her district move to Pascrell.  Sherrill would then shift south into Union County, adding towns like Summit, Springfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains and the Democratic stronghold of Plainfield.

Her district could also include parts of Middlesex, and there are parts of Somerset County that she would likely not object to.

Malinowski would undoubtedly like to drop the Warren and Morris portions of his district, and parts of Hunterdon.  Leonard Lance beat him in those three counties by eight percentage points.

Kean, if he wins, could find his hometown of Westfield as the easternmost point in his district.  If he were to add parts of Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren, Sussex and western Morris, Kean would have a safe congressional seat for a decade.

Map by Ben Kestenbaum
Map by Ben Kestenbaum
Map by Ben Kestenbaum
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