The Republican primary in New Jersey’s 4th Congressional district pits a “Trumpster” against Chris Smith, the senior member of the state’s delegation and a man who has won every general election since 1984 with at least 60 percent of the vote. Bruce MacDonald, owner of a Hamilton jewelry store, ran in the Republican primary In 2011 in the 11th state legislative district, receiving 11.5 percent of the vote against two opponents.
Smith, who served as executive director of the New Jersey Right-to-Life Committee in the 1970s, defeated Democratic incumbent Frank Thompson, who had become entangled in the Abscam scandal, in 1980, after losing to him two years earlier. Democrats expected Smith to be a one-term wonder, but he beat former state Senate President Joseph Merlino in 1982 with 53 percent of the vote and has not had a close election since.
In Congress, Smith is known as one of the strongest opponents of abortion. But he is more moderate on many other issues with a lifetime rating of 59.24 from the American Conservative Union and yearly ratings of 56 in 2014 and 48 in 2015.
“He has gotten more comprehensive bills signed into law than the rest of the New Jersey Congressional delegation combined,” his campaign website says, describing him as an effective legislator in an era of Congressional gridlock.
“I’m a Trumpster,” MacDonald said. He described his campaign issues as “Work, Citizen, Taxpayer, Choice, Guns, Execution.”
“The Republicans have sold the country down the drain,” he added. “That’s why Donald Trump is so popular.”
As of May 18, Smith’s campaign reported $347,683 cash on hand. “I’ve spent about $1.50 so far,” MacDonald said, adding that he has no plans to raise any money.
Asked if he has any chance of beating Smith, “MacDonald replied, “Who knows?”
Lorna Phillipson, a former bank trading executive from Monmouth County, is the only Democratic candidate. She has previously run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly.
MacDonald said he is personally opposed to abortion — “I hate abortion” — but believes it should be legal. Women who want to end pregnancies should be encouraged to do so early. Couples should be prompted to use contraception unless they are trying to have a child, he believes — “That’s why it’s called planned parenthood.”
Opposition to abortion has been Smith’s top issue since he first ran for Congress. He opposes stem-cell and fetal-tissue research and supports a total ban on federal funding for abortion.
Death Penalty and Guns
Smith opposes the death penalty. MacDonald says carrying out more executions is a key part of his platform.
On guns, MacDonald says “background checks yes, registration no.”
New Jersey’s Economy
MacDonald said that “right-to-work” policies in southern states have hit New Jersey hard — “Trenton’s a ghost town.” He would push for similar laws here.
Smith’s Signature Issues
Smith has been involved in efforts to fight human trafficking around the world and to protect religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. He has also sponsored legislation to provide funding for Lyme disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.