Competition among three Democratic House members from North Jersey who all wanted to shed some solidly Republican areas has been nearly three years in the making, but a new controversy surrounding stock transactions by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) might solve the problem.
David Wasserman, the U.S. House editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report, said on Twitter that the “stock scandal…could make it easier for NJ’s redistricting commission throw him under the bus.”
According to Wasserman, Democrats could trade a relatively safe Republican 7th district seat in exchange for Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) strengthening their hold on districts that arguably lean Republican.
Had Malinowski lost his re-election bid last year – he defeated Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) by just one percent of the vote – the job of the redistricting panel might have been easier.
Now some Democrats say the Malinowski stock controversy could have the same effect.
“I’d rather dump all the Republicans into one district and let Kean win in a landslide,” said one Democratic leader who is involved in the redistricting process. “Then we don’t have to worry about Mikie. Then we wouldn’t need to worry about Gottheimer.”
According to that Democrat, “if Kean’s going to win with 65%, we might as well let him win with 75% or 85% and call it a day.”
Gottheimer and Sherrill would likely prefer to lose the western parts of their districts – terrain that is adjacent to the 7th district with municipalities Kean would probably like to get.
In the 5th district, Gottheimer was re-elected to a third term by 31,842 votes, 53%-46%, despite losing the Sussex, Warren and Passaic portions of his district 20,788 votes and 18 percentage points
Sherrill won for the second time in the 11th district by 29,150 votes, 53%-47%. But she lost Sussex and Passaic by a combined 4,619 votes, receiving 48% of the vote. While Sherrill won Morris County with 52%, she could afford to shed a few Republican towns – like Jefferson – and even replace then with more Democratic municipalities, like Dover. Malinowski won Dover with 68% of the vote last year.
At the same time, Sherrill might gladly pick up Democratic strongholds like Millburn and Union Township, which Malinowski won with 66% and 65%, respectively. She could also add towns where Malinowski received close to 60%, like Summit and Springfield.
There’s no doubt that Sherrill would like to add the rest of Montclair, where Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark) won 89% of the 15,439 voters cast in the next-door 10th district.
Some of Payne’s district – places like Glen Ridge, South Orange, Maplewood, and the part of Bloomfield that Sherrill doesn’t already have – are fungible, especially if Hudson County gains in population following the 2020 U.S. Census.
Easing the redistricting process is a standing offer from Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) to represent every municipality in the 8th district, including Republican constituencies currently in the Gottheimer and Sherrill districts.”
“Pascrell will be 85 next year, so a ten-year map for him means he’s probably thinking about who he wants to succeed him someday,” a Democratic strategist said. “Right now, the next congressman from the 9th is probably from Bergen County, but I think Pascrell would like to see his seat remain in Passaic.”
Last year, Pascrell won his 13th term by 105,045 votes, so he can absorb places where Gottheimer and Sherrill struggled in 2020. That could help potential heirs, like Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), Assemblyman Benji Wimberly (D-Paterson), Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and several Passaic County commissioners, prevail in a Democratic primary.
In turn, the more of Bergen the better for Gottheimer. He could be eyeing Fort Lee, Englewood, and the parts of Teaneck he doesn’t already represent, as well as Palisades Park, Cliffside Park, Garfield and Tenafly.
But, the Demcoratic strategist said, simply canceling Malinowski to strengthen Gottheimer and Sherrill isn’t necessarily without consequences.
“Democrats are in danger of losing the House and every seat in important,” the individual stated. “It’s not so easy for Democrats to just cut Malinowski lose and then move on. The stakes are pretty large.”