Since Leonard Lance called Tom Malinowski a carpetbagger in last night’s debate – an unfair allegation, since Malinowski grew up in a town next door to the current boundaries of district – here’s a great story about carpetbagging that comes from John McCain’s first race for the House in 1982.
His opponent in the GOP primary, a State Senator named Jimmy Mack, attacked McCain at a debate for just recently moving to Arizona. The response of McCain, who grew up as the son of a Navy officer and spent seven years in a POW camp, was legendary: “I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”
A few months back, POLITICO senior politics editor Charlie Mahtesian nails the issue: “Carpetbagging barely matters anymore in the House. Most places have too many newcomers/transients to care, and in many states computer-assisted gerrymandering obliterated the idea of communities of interest where deep local ties are important.”
A little more detail, for those interested in being bored with congressional redistricting history: technically, Lance didn’t grow up in the district either. When Lance was born in 1952, Hunterdon County was in a Bergen County-based district represented by Republican Bill Widnall (R-Ridgewood) in a seat that is now held by Problem Solver buddy Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff).
Hunterdon was shifted to a Mercer-based district where Frank Thompson (D-Trenton) was the congressman for the 1966 reapportionment; that’s the seat now held by Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton). In 1972, Hunterdon became part of a new district that was won by Republican Joseph Maraziti (R-Boonton). Eventually that seat was won by Helen Meyner (D-Phillipsburg), James Courter (R-Allamuchy), and then Dick Zimmer (R- Delaware).
When Zimmer ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996, Lance sought the Republican nomination for Congress but lost the primary to Michael Pappas (R-Franklin). Pappas was beaten in 1998 by Rush Holt (D-Hopewell). Holt was succeeded in 2014 by Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing).
After Holt won a second term by just 651 votes against Zimmer, he was anxious to shed some Republican towns. Similarly, freshman Michael Ferguson (R-Warren), who won his seat with 51.5%, wanted to get rid of some Democratic areas, like Franklin Township. Ferguson wound up picking up most of Hunterdon County, where Lance lived.
Lance was 50-years-old when he finally became a resident of his current congressional district. He won the seat when Ferguson walked away in 2008.
Part II: When six-year-old Malinowski moved to New Jersey in 1971 — 233 years after Lance’s ancestors emigrated from Germany aboard the Thistle – Thompson was his congressman, and also Lance’s. After the 1972 redistricting, Peter Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) represented Princeton for two years before he retired. Then Millicent Fenwick (R-Bernardsville) had Princeton in the district from 1975 until her district was eliminated in the 1982 redistricting after she decided to run for the U.S. Senate.
In 1982, while Malinowski was a high school student and intern in Bill Bradley’s Senate office, Princeton became part of the legendary fishhook district that went from Elizabeth to Princeton, and then north into Marlboro. Matthew Rinaldo (R-Union) won the seat, even though he didn’t live in the district. A panel of federal appellate judges tossed that map after two years. It wasn’t until 1984 that Malinowski, age 19, and Lance, age 32, lived in the same district, which included just a small part of what is now the New Jersey 7th. After that, Princeton was represented by Courter, Zimmer and Holt.
Just to finish up: when Rinaldo, then seeking his sixth term in the House, had his own town out of his district, he ran and won without living there. Not only did he not move into his new district, he refused to move his congressional office into the new district. He continued to live in and work out of Union Township – technically in Courter’s district – until the courts gave him a map that returned his town to the 7th.