New Jersey continues to lean blue for statewide federal seats, although the House delegation is likely to split 50-50 in November.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll, released yesterday, gives President Obama a 49 percent to 38 percent lead over Republican Mitt Romney, who has the vocal backing of Gov. Chris Christie. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez has an even bigger lead over his GOP opponent, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, R-Monmouth and another strong Christie ally, 46-32.
“Sen. Robert Menendez is close to the magic 50 percent mark, and has a comfortable double-digit lead over the little-known state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The ballot is more crowded though than just these two major party candidates. One Libertarian, one Green party candidate and seven independents are also running.
Information on all the candidates running for federal and state seats is available in NJ Spotlight’s Voter Guide. The guide has been updated to include candidates who have filed and will contain biographical information, as well as their views on key issues.
And there are a lot of candidates: 74 are running in 14 federal races and for three unexpired state Assembly seats.
For U.S. Senate, with more than three months until the election, “Menendez is running as well in his race as President Barack Obama is doing against Gov. Mitt Romney … Scratch New Jersey off any swing state lists,” Carroll said.
Kyrillos has been traveling around the state trying to raise his profile and attack Menendez over jobs and the economy, but so far is only leading in his home state of Monmouth, the poll shows.
Ignoring the fact that Kyrillos trailed Menendez by 14 percentage points, his campaign issued a statement noting that the incumbent still did not have the support of half of those polled, despite having spent almost two decades in Washington.
“Bob Menendez has failed New Jersey — unemployment is much higher, our deficit is much higher, and the standard of living for middle-class families is lower than when he was elected to the Senate,” said Kyrillos campaign manager Chapin Fay, calling the 37 percent favorable rating Menendez received “anemic.”
“Senator Menendez fights back for New Jersey’s middle class because it is the right thing to do, not because it may help him with polls,” countered Michael Soliman, Menendez’s campaign manager. “Senator Menendez’s message of fighting back for the middle class is resonating with New Jersey voters.”
The incumbent also has a large financial edge. Their most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Menendez had $10 million cash on hand on June 30 while Kyrillos had less than $2 million through May 16. In releases, Kyrillos’ campaign said the challenger had raised $1.3 million in the second quarter, though that is not yet reflected by the FEC. Menendez had raised almost $1.7 million in the same period.
For the chance to serve in the U.S. Congress, at least one independent is running in each of New Jersey’s 12 House districts for new two-year terms, in addition to a representative of each of the major parties. The only race without both parties represented is the one for the unexpired seat of Rep. Donald M. Payne, who died last March, while representing the Newark-centered 10th District. Payne’s son, Donald Jr., won the Democratic primary for the right to represent the district only until the end of the current session on Jan.3. No Republican filed. One independent is also in the race.
The most crowded House race is in the 3rd District, where six are challenging Rep. John Runyan, the Republican finishing his first term in office. This is also probably the most competitive House race with Runyan facing a challenge from Shelley Adler, the widow of former Rep. John Adler, whom Runyan ousted two years ago in a close race.
Registered Democrats actually outnumber Republicans by 9,000, though they still comprise only 27 percent of all those registered and the district has traditionally been Republican. When Barak Obama won New Jersey with 57 percent of the vote in 2008, John Adler took the then-open seat with 52 percent of the vote, as Rep. Jim Saxton, a Republican, had just retired after 25 years in Congress.
Shelley Adler’s campaign just announced that she raised more money in the second quarter of the year than Runyan. According to the FEC, he still has more cash on hand, however: $903,000 compared with $493,000.
Also appearing on the ballot is Robert Edward Forchion, whose website, njweedman.com, states he is a “former Pemberton Township resident, who lives in Los Angeles,” which should disqualify him for running for Congress in New Jersey. His petition to run for state Assembly in the 8th District was not challenged last year.
Forchion was convicted last May of marijuana possession. He reported on his website that he has returned to California until his retrial on a second charge of distribution, on which the jury did not reach a verdict in his first trial. The retrial is scheduled for Sept. 4.
According to the state corrections department’s offender database, Forchion, 48, was convicted of four counts, including drug distribution, and served 16 months in jail.
This is one of the few races considered competitive; incumbents always have an advantage and the redrawing of district boundaries make them even safer.
One of the other exceptions is in the 7th, where state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Middlesex) is giving Rep. Leonard Lance a serious challenge. Chivukula actually had more cash on hand as of June 30 than Lance, $434,000 vs. $385,000. Lance has already spent $708,000 this year, in large part to fend off a challenge from fellow Republican David Larsen in the primary. Still, the district is heavily Republican, so the demographics give Lance a big edge.
The other race that could be close is in the 6th, where Tea Party Republican Anna Little is trying again to unseat Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone. She came up short two years ago, getting 43 percent of the vote. Pallone, who has been in Congress nearly a quarter of a century, has both name recognition and a heavy financial advantage. According to June 30 reports filed with the FEC, Little is $11,000 in debt, while Pallone has $3.4 million. There are also four independents in the race.