Article Trump and rubber-stamping GOP Congress have hurt N.J. and the voters know it.

November 4, 2018

The New Jersey congressional delegation has historically been split closely between Democrats and Republicans, but that is about to change.

The state will be at the forefront of the Blue Wave sweeping the nation, because citizens of New Jersey have been hard hit by President Trump’s policies. From dwindling health care protections and rising costs, to the Republican tax increase on New Jersey families who already pay high property, income, and sales taxes — the president and the Republican candidates who support him have let New Jersey down.

But Democratic candidates aren’t going to win on Tuesday simply based on party identification.

This year, a particularly strong slate of Democrats will be on the ballot, which means that New Jerseyans will not only be voting against Trump and his Republican acolytes, but for impressive candidates they trust. It cannot be overstated — New Jersey will play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections.

In fact, the road to a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives runs through three states with five to 10 potential House seats in play: New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.

This hasn’t usually been the case, particularly given the New Jersey’s consistent loss of congressional seats to faster growing states, such as Texas and California, due to the decennial census reapportionment and redistricting.

New Jersey had 15 House seats in the 1970s, 14 in the 1980s, 13 in the 1990s and 2000s. Now it has just 12 seats.

Even though twice as many New Jersey registered voters are Democrats than are Republicans, the state’s congressional delegation has remained split between Democrats and Republicans. The delegation currently comprises seven Democrats and five Republicans, and since the 1980s, Democratic members of Congress have outnumbered Republicans by only one or two (in 1996, there were actually seven Republicans and six Democrats).

Most districts in New Jersey are competitive, although one can wonder how independent the “independent” commission that draws the districts really is if the result is a congressional delegation that so significantly under-represents Democrats relative to the statewide population year after year.

The current commission consists of six Republicans, six Democrats, and an “independent” chairman (Republican John Farmer Jr., a former state attorney general) selected by members of the General Assembly and the state parties (the chairman is then selected by the members of the commission).

The good news for New Jersey is that despite the boundaries of the congressional districts, independently drawn or not, the makeup of the congressional delegation will more closely reflect the needs and desires of New Jerseyans after Election Day.

Not only are a record number of incumbent members of Congress stepping down, but the Democrats who have stepped up to run in their districts are all first-round draft picks.

Mike Sherrill, in the 11th District, is a former Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor. Andy Kim, in the 3rd Dist., worked at the White House and the Pentagon on national security, and served in Afghanistan as a strategic adviser to Gens. David Petraeus and John Allen. Tom Malinowski, 7th Dist., served on President Clinton’s National Security Council and was an assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor under President Obama. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, running in the 2nd Dist., had more bills signed into law than any other legislator in New Jersey in several legislative sessions.

At the top of the ticket this year is U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, running for a third term. His record on foreign and domestic policy is closely aligned with New Jersey voters, but his second term in the Senate was hobbled by a now-dismissed ethics investigation. Menendez is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he has been a stalwart supporter of Israel. And he is one of the most influential voices in the Senate on immigration and tax and trade policy. Menendez’s proven, progressive record on domestic issues resonate with the vast majority of New Jerseyans who realize the importance of a strong legislative check on President Trump.

All of these candidates are poised to win, provided New Jersey voters are as energized as they should be this year. More importantly, all these candidates and the incumbent House members like Reps. Frank Pallone, N.J.-6th Dist., and Bill Pascrell, N.J.-8th Dist., top Democrats on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee respectively, will immediately have an impact on the Democratic majority that will be seated in January.

President Trump and the rubber-stamp GOP Congress have hurt New Jersey, and the voters know it. Strong turnout in New Jersey on Nov. 6 will lead to a new Democratic majority in Congress and to a much more blue New Jersey congressional delegation.

Israel “Izzy” Klein, a West Orange native, is founding board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and co-founder and principal of DC firm, Klein/Johnson Group LLC.