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In 11th District, 10-Term Republican Incumbent Will Be Hard to Unseat

Ousting Rodney Frelinghuysen remains an almost insurmountable challenge to Republicans and Democrats alike

U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th)

Challengers for the New Jersey District 11 Congressional seat -- both Democrat and Republican -- face an uphill battle against a 20-year GOP incumbent. Voters in the district have elected Rodney Frelinghuysen to Congress 10 times, and an 11th term would seem to be almost inevitable.

District 11 sits in North Jersey and encompasses most of Morris County, along with parts of Essex, Passaic, and Sussex counties. Voters in the district skew Republican, with 150,733 voters registered to the GOP, compared with the Democrats’ 126,956. The district of about 736,000 people has voted reliably Republican in past Congressional elections, with Frelinghuysen winning the seat by at least 50,000 votes against his Democrat competitors over the past 10 years.

Frelinghuysen, 68, has served in Congress for the 11th district since 1994. He serves on a variety of Congressional committees and subcommittees, including the House Appropriations Committee and the Homeland Security and the Defense subcommittees. His position on various committees gives him his power in Congress. “He flies under the radar with the media, but has a very quiet power,” said Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The incumbent’s top issues include maintaining national defense; boosting the economy and securing more jobs; bringing global trade to New Jersey’s ports; and helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find jobs and services. On these issues and others, he tends to vote along Republican party lines.

rick van glahn
Rick Van Glahn

His opponent in the primary for the Republican nomination is Rick Van Glahn, a 53-year-old, self-employed home improvement contractor from Denville, where he lives with his wife and three sons. Van Glahn was a Boy Scouts leader for about 15 years, and was ordained a deacon in the Paterson Diocese in 2009. He has never held public office.

Van Glahn’s platform consists of reining in government spending. The federal government levies too many taxes, he said, and it hurts businesses and job creators. He would lower taxes and reduce government spending in order to jumpstart the economy and job production.

Van Glahn also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act completely and instead reform the current healthcare system through incremental improvements such as the ability to buy health insurance in groups, carry health insurance to new jobs, , and reduce the number of lawsuits that doctors and medical institutions face to reduce insurance costs.

In addition, Van Glahn is in favor of tighter immigration and border control, supports the Second Amendment, and is pro-life. He also wants to limit the amount of time congressmen can serve to just three or four terms. He is critical of career politicians like Frelinghuysen. ““I want to show that someone can come from Main Street and run against the incumbnents. . . and win,” he said.

The Democrats

Three Democrats are battling for the nomination in district 11: Mark Dunec, Brian Murphy, and Lee Anne Brogowski.

Mark Dunec

Dunec, 38, lives with his wife and two children in Livingston Township and works for FTI Consulting in its Real Estate Solutions Practice. He describes himself as a “professional problem solver,” and vows to take those skills to Congress. On social issues, he is running for LGBT, minority, and women’s rights.

On policy issues, he calls himself Paul Ryan’s Democratic equivalent because, Dunec said, he can balance the country’s fiscal issues. He proposes fixing the potential Social Security shortfall by adjusting the FICA tax and by allowing undocumented workers to contribute to and collect from the Social Security fund, which he says can delay Social Security problems by at least 20 years. He also wants to increase the minimum wage in a “two-tiered system,” in which high school and college kids in high-turnover jobs are paid a lower wage and career workers are paid $10.10 an hour. Dunec also believes in offering undocumented workers a path to citizenship.

Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy, 48, entered the fray after his hometown, Nutley, was gerrymandered into Frelinghuysen’s district. Murphy is not accepting any lobbyist money for his campaign. The move is a protest against how corporate money corrupts politics, he said.

In addition, he wants to push for infrastructure repair throughout the country, citing the American Society of Civil Engineers’s D+ grade for America's infrastructure, and supports education, specifically vocational training. “Some people are more geniuses with their hand than with books,” Murphy said.

Murphy understands the battle he has to the Congressman’s seat. “I think people will give me a chance,” he said, “and if I win the primary than I can mount a strong campaign [against Frelinghuysen].”

Murphy is an editor at McGraw Hill Financial.

Lee Ann Brogowski

The last Democratic candidate, Lee Anne Brogowski, did not return calls for comments. Her website lists a number of issues, such as universal equality, legalizing marijuana and prostitution, and making sure the government only enters into the personal lives of citizens when it is absolutely necessary. She describes herself as a Libertarian Democrat.


Frelinghuysen, the Republican incumbent, has raked in $603,618 so far. The Congressman counts General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and BAE Systems, a global defense corporation, among his largest donors. He has spent $430,924 of that money so far. His Republican challenger, Rick Van Glahn, has received much less money, $23,576, and has spent only $2,426.

Mark Dunec, one of the challengers for the Democratic Party ticket, has raised $108,947 and spent $44,752. His donors include The Klein Group, LLC, a real estate company, and the company for which he works, FTI Consulting, among others. The two other Democratic challengers, Murphy and Brogowski, have not filed with the FEC.

Mike Russell is a freelance writer who covers politics and other issues in New Jersey.

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