After Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) got the U.S. House of Representatives to agree to probe whether the U.S. government ever weaponized ticks with Lyme disease on Monday evening, Democrat Stephanie Schmid may have walked right into a political buzz saw.
Schmid pounced on Smith, accusing him of wasting tax dollars and “promoting debunked conspiracy theories.”
The part Schmid forgot was that Democrats control the House and Smith’s move to get the Government Accountability Office to determine if ticks were turned into was done with the support of the Democratic leadership.
The Smith amendment passed unanimously – which includes the ten Democrats who represent New Jersey in the House. It was the second time House Democrats backed up Smith on his Lyme disease claim.
By trying to castigate Smith’s move as some sort of weird science, Schmid might have damaged her own credibility as a congressional candidate.
“Facts matter,” said Michael Soliman, a Democratic strategist who has run two statewide campaigns. “Candidates need to know what they’re talking about before shooting from the hip if they want to be taken seriously.”
Smith’s campaign spokesman, Michael Finan, sharply criticized Schmid’ suggestion that Lyme disease wasn’t worthy of Congress’ attention during the global coronavirus pandemic, saying it was “extraordinarily ignorant.”
“New Jersey ranks third in the entire country for Lyme prevalence and Chris Smith is a recognized national leader successfully fighting for more federal funding for better surveillance, treatment and a cure,” Finan said. “Over 800,000 New Jersey residents have had Lyme and 10-20% of all Lyme patients have chronic Lyme resulting in a significant deterioration of health and quality of life.”
As Schmid tries to gain some foothold in the only congressional district in New Jersey with more Republicans than Democrats – she’s coming off a bruising and expensive primary – she may have inadvertently hinted at the reason why voters have been electing Smith for 40 years.
“Schmid has called attention to Smith’s effectiveness in convincing both House caucuses to unanimously support his bill, which is an accomplishment for any legislator who is in the minority,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “While Smith’s assertions may sound wild to Schmid, her opinion is not shared by either the Democratic leadership of the House, which posted the bill for a vote, or every other members of the House, who voted for it.”
Rasmussen said that this year, the House has only taken 152 roll call votes and maybe a few hundred voice votes, something he says “gives some idea that it’s a big deal for any member to get a bill passed.”
“The point is, this is not something that happens every day for a Republican in a Democratic-led House,” Rasmussen explained.
Finan said that Smith’s efforts could help find a cure for Lyme disease.
“Questions have been raised about the origins of the tick-borne disease and Lyme patients not only have a right to know the truth but deserve any information that could lead to a cure,” he said. “As we know from COVID-19, learning how a disease originates can drastically help arrive at effective treatment and lead to a cure.”
Asked later about universal Democratic support for Smith’s missive, Schmid declined to back off.
“Our campaign stands by our tweet,” said Kristen Foca, Schmid’s spokesperson.
Smith has dealt with naysayers before.
When he first raised human trafficking as an issue in the 1990s, rivals said he was trying to find “a solution in search of a problem.”