Frank Pallotta and Paul DeGroot, two Republican congressional nominees waging difficult fights against strong Democratic incumbents in New Jersey, were added this morning to the National Republican Campaign Committee’s “On the Radar” list for promising congressional candidates.
The announcement is a sign that national Republicans see tough races in New Jersey’s 5th and 11th districts as winnable, and that they consider Pallotta and DeGroot to be acceptable standard-bearers.
But it’s notable how late in the cycle it’s coming, and that neither DeGroot nor Pallotta were added to the top-tier Young Guns program instead. The NRCC added two other New Jersey Republicans, 3rd district nominee Bob Healey Jr. and 7th district nominee Tom Kean Jr., to the Young Guns list in June 2022 and November 2021, respectively.
“And on the same day DeGroot’s Republican Party releases their national abortion ban,” said Jackie Burns, the campaign manager for Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair).
“Across the country, Americans are struggling to keep up with rising costs, violent crime and an unsecured southern border,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said in a statement on the addition of Pallotta, DeGroot, and five other House candidates. “Republicans are ready to take back the House and these talented candidates are going to help America put an end to Democrats’ failed leadership.”
Both Pallotta and DeGroot had to win tough primary fights to get to this point, and neither were preferred by a majority of the Republican establishment in their respective races.
Pallotta, a former investment banker who lost to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) 53-46% in 2020, faced U.S. Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio, who had the backing of the Bergen County Republican Party (the district’s largest county by far). De Gregorio also seemed to be the choice of national Republicans; before the primary, he was listed as one of the NRCC’s On the Radar candidates.
Despite De Gregorio’s advantages, Pallotta was able to narrowly win the primary, setting him up for a tough rematch against Gottheimer. Pallotta has just $64,057 compared to Gottheimer’s $14 million, and the 5th district was also redrawn to be substantially more Democratic than it was in Pallotta’s last campaign.
Notably, Pallotta was a Young Gun in his 2020 race – but he was named to the list in August 2019, more than a year before the general election.
DeGroot, meanwhile, is a first-time candidate and former Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor who is hoping to defeat Sherrill in the Morris, Passaic and Essex County-based 11th district. DeGroot had looked like an underdog heading into his primary election against Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, but thanks to a wildly strong performance in Passaic County, which makes up only a small portion of the district, he eked out a victory.
Though national Republicans never got involved in that primary, local Republicans mostly preferred Selen, who has a proven ability to win in swingy Morris County. Like Pallotta, DeGroot is at a major fundraising deficit against Sherrill – $282,605 to $6 million – and the 11th district was redrawn to be so blue that most major election forecasters rate the seat as “Solid D.”
The fact that the NRCC has given its stamp of approval to Pallotta and DeGroot may help improve their fortunes, as Republicans around the country get the chance to learn about their candidacies and contribute money to their campaigns. But with less than two months left before Election Day, Pallotta and DeGroot still have a lot of ground to make up.
This story was updated at 12:49 p.m. on September 14 with a correction: Pallotta and DeGroot were added to the “On the Radar” list, not the higher-tier “Young Guns” list.