One of the few bright spots for Democrats in the 2016 election when Josh Gottheimer, a former Clinton White House speechwriter, ousted controversial Republican Rep. Scott Garrett. After seven terms as a congressman, Garrett was under fire comments made about the LGBT community.
Now New Jersey’s 5th district is back in the news following the announcement that Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich will challenge Gottheimer from the left in the 2020 Democratic primary. Some progressive Democrats believe Gottheimer has voted too moderately during his first 2 ½ years in the House.
This district which had a long history of electing Republicans to Congress – from Woodrow Wilson’s first mid-term election until Watergate and again since the start of the Reagan era — voted for Donald Trump by 1% in 2016.
The 5th remains an NRCC target, but as progressives in the district hope they can topple the Human Fundraising Machine, looking back to the 2016 Democratic presidential primary may yield insights into the path to victory for a progressive in this North Jersey district.
Hillary Clinton carried the 5th in 2016 by a margin of 20.38% over Bernie Sanders.
Clinton defeated Sanders, 39,108 to 25,864. She was able to carry this district by 20% after a nearly 30-point landslide win in Bergen County. The part of Bergen County in the 5th district accounted for over 80% of votes cast in that primary. 85% of Clinton’s votes from the district were from Bergen County, while Sanders only got 72% of his votes in the district from Bergen County.
Bernie Sanders won the three remaining counties in the district: Passaic, Sussex, and Warren, which combined, made up 19% of the vote in the primary. Clinton got 14.25% of her vote in the district, while Sanders got 27.96% of his vote from those three counties.
Passaic accounted for 4.37% of the vote in the ’16 primary in the 5th and voted for Sanders by a margin of 7.46%. Sussex accounted for 9.02% of the vote and went for Sanders by a margin of 18.64%. Warren accounted for 6.32% of the vote backed Sanders by a margin of 8.54%.
Bergen is the crucial portion of the district in a Democratic primary. Without a good performance in Bergen, even if candidate dominates Passaic, Sussex, and Warren, victory is impossible as nearly 4 out of every 5 primary votes in 2016 were cast in Bergen.
Sanders performed well in the other three counties, but even though he won all three of them, it was not enough for him to overcome Clinton’s vote lead from Bergen County. The other three counties could help push a candidate over the edge from a narrow loss in Bergen County, but no Democrat can afford to lose Bergen by the margin that Sanders did in a primary.
As the most populous county in the state, and one that has been trending Democratic for the past two decades, Bergen continues to make itself crucial to any candidate wanting to win in New Jersey’s 5th district.2016 presidential 5th