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Democratic congressional candidate Stephanie Schmid. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Schmid wins in fight to take on Smith

Many ballots in Monmouth County not counted Tuesday

By Nikita Biryukov, July 08 2020 12:46 am

The New Jersey Globe called this race at 3 a.m. Wednesday. The story was updated at that time.

Democratic House candidate Stephanie Schmid holds an insurmountable lead in the contest for the fourth congressional district’s Democratic nomination.

Schmid, a former U.S. State Department staffer, won 70% of the vote Tuesday. Lifestyle coach Christine Conforti won 24%, while retired journalist and author David Applefield got 6%.

Schmid won organizational support in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, while Conforti won the line in the fourth district’s two Mercer County towns, where vote tallies are not yet available.

The lopsided organizational support drove a wedge between the three candidates. Applefield on Sunday said he would not support Schmid in the general if she became the party’s nominee, claiming that Schmid’s candidacy was a rerun of the races that have kept Smith in office for nearly 40 years.

Conforti didn’t go that far, though she questioned Schmid’s authenticity on numerous occasions and worried that Schmid’s moderate platform wouldn’t animate young voters, who will need to turn out in droves if Democrats are to have a chance of ousting the 20-term incumbent in November.

In either case, Conforti and Applefield both tried to force Ocean County to hold an open primary in April. Ocean County Democratic Chairman said he’d acquiesce if all three candidates agreed, but Schmid, who had already won the county’s organizational line, declined.

Still, Schmid led the Democratic field in fundraising, however narrowly. By June 17, she had raised $324,813.57 to Applefield’s $255,783.64 and had a larger war chest than the former journalist, leading him $51,806.55 to $30,130.83.

Conforti’s fundraising lagged behind significantly. She raised just $26,483.68 by June 17 and had no cash on hand as the race moved into its final days.

Meanwhile, Smith had $647,469.65 banked after coasting through his primary with 95%, though he still outspent each of the Democratic candidates.

Three other Democrats launched bids in the fourth district but dropped out of the race well in advance of election day.

Lobbyist Tiffany Kaszuba dropped her bid in December, citing harassment from then-Monmouth Democratic State Committeeman Bill Robinson.

Former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady pulled out of the race in January after sending a controversial email detailing rumors about his personal life. The email led 27 Democratic leaders and organizations to call for him to suspend his bid.

Hassan Shehadeh pulled out of the race that same month after failing to raise substantial funding for his campaign.

The race in the fourth district will be an uphill battle for Democrats.

The fourth is New Jersey’s most Republican districts. In 2018, Smith coasted to re-election, defeating Democrat Josh Welle by 12 points in a year that saw the GOP lose every other Republican-held House seat in the state.

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