If Patrick Murray is right and New Jersey sends twelve Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives next year, the state would brace for another cycle of competitive congressional races in 2020 – this time with a mostly new crop of candidates.
For those who think it can’t happen, consider this: in 1972, four-term Republican Rep. Charles Sandman, a former Senate President and GOP gubernatorial candidate, won re-election in 1972 by 32 points in a +31 Richard Nixon district. Two years later, Sandman, a Nixon ally, lost to Democrat Bill Hughes by 16 points – a 48-point shift for one congressman in just two years.
Republicans lost four House seats that year, including a 22-year incumbent, all in districts that Nixon won by enormous margins in 1972. They eventually won the four seats back, but it took a while – Hughes stayed around for twenty years.
Let’s say Democrats pick up the open LoBiondo and Frelinghuysen seats, and oust Tom MacArthur, Chris Smith and Leonard Lance. Here’s the short list of possible candidates in two years:
District 2: Like Hughes in 1974 and Frank LoBiondo in 1994, Jeff Van Drew would be almost impossible to beat. Republicans found that in 2003 when they tried to retake the State Assembly seat Van Drew wrestled from them two years earlier. The only real shot for the GOP would be if State Sen. Chris Brown decides to run.
District 3: The most obvious challenger to Andy Kim would be a rematch with Tom MacArthur, but MacArthur would need to decide if he’d rather wait a year and just run for governor – if that door is even open to him after losing re-election to the House. Republicans have a narrow bench – hence the reason MacArthur was able to relocate from Morris County to win the seat in the first place. After MacArthur, the strongest Republican might be Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs, whose day job is with Operating Engineers Local 825. She’ll need to win re-election to her freeholder seat this year – not an easy task.
District 4: If Chris Smith loses to Josh Welle, the obvious front runner would be former Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who would easily score the GOP nomination even though she lives in Frank Pallone’s district. Others from the district: State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon; Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon; former Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande; Assemblyman Sean Kean; Monmouth County Sheriff (and GOP County Chairman) Shaun Golden. Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede could be a candidate, but Monmouth, which hasn’t sent a Republican to Congress since Jim Auchincloss retired in 1974, will want this seat.
District 7: The front runner to take on Tom Malinowski would be Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. Others possible candidates: Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt; Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick; Assemblyman Eric Peterson; Hunterdon County Freeholder Shaun Van Doren; and former Roxbury Councilman Tim Smith. State Sen. Michael Doherty could also run, even though he doesn’t live in the district.
District 11: As a congresswoman, Mikie Sherrill might become another Josh Gottheimer: a middle of the road Democrat with an enormous appetite for raising money in a district that favors Republicans. The short list of Republican challengers for 2020 would start with whomever loses the 2018 GOP primary. After that, add State Senators Joseph Pennacchio and Kristin Corrado, Essex County Republican Chairman Al Barlas, Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, and former New York Jets center Nick Mangold to the list.
New Jersey Globe readers should always feel free to add their own names to the list using the comments section.