Rochelle Park is a small Bergen County municipality that is another illustration of the changing landscape of New Jersey politics: a swing-town with slightly more Republicans than Democrats. Democrats won there in 2017. It’s a good example of the kind of town Republicans can’t lose if they expect any sort of future electoral success.
It’s one of the New Jersey towns where Donald Trump outperformed other GOP candidates. Donald Trump won Rochelle Park with 53% in 2016, but Democrat Josh Gottheimer outpolled seven-term Republican incumbent Scott Garrett there with 55%.
Gottheimer’s likely opponent, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, won Rochelle Park by eight percentage points in his 2014 U.S. Senate race against Cory Booker. Keep in mind that 54%-46% translates into an 89- vote margin in a light turnout election.
For Lonegan in 2018, Rochelle Park is a must-win in a town that also backed Barack Obama and Bob Menendez six years ago.
Democrats took control of local government for the first time in 26 years when they defeated two long-time incumbents. Symbolically, Gottheimer swore in Rochelle Park’s new Democratic mayor, William Hauser. Hauser — and Democratic control of the Township Committee — is up in 2018.
Phil Murphy carried the town by 55 votes, while State Sen. Bob Gordon won it by 121. Gordon lost Rochelle Park in 2011 and 2013. The Democratic Assembly candidates did even better, albeit against weaker opposition. Democratic Freeholder candidates also carried the town, and on the local level, the margins of Democrats Linda Bonifice and Marc Vojinich over veteran Township Committeemen Francis Valenzuela and Sam Allos weren’t even close.
With a population of 5,530, Rochelle Park is 88% white, with a median income of $66,000; a little more than 60% of the residents are homeowners.