Slim Prospects: The Reality for Several Challengers to Congressional Incumbents

Carly Sitrin | May 22, 2018 | Politics, Primary 2018
Dozens of candidates are running in the June primary elections. Some of the races are hotly contested, but incumbents are heavily favored in others

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell is one of the heavily favored congressional Democratic incumbents
New Jersey will see an unusually crowded ballot this June with 51 candidates running in the primaries for the state’s 12 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. While some of those races will be closely contested and a few even expected to flip from red to blue in November, many are coalescing around their incumbents with only faint sparks of opposition.

Here’s a roundup of some the primary races which are less contentious or do not have strong challenges.

District 1

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross
Powerful Democratic incumbent Donald Norcross has two challengers: Robert Lee Carlson, an information technology director from Collingswood and Scot John Tomaszewski, an electrical contractor from Cherry Hill. Paul E. Dilks, a radio personality from Gloucester City, is running unopposed on the Republican side.

Norcross was first elected in 2014, when former U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D) resigned. Norcross is the brother of the powerful South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross, and according to an NJ Spotlight analysis, he ranked 153rd wealthiest in the House with a net worth of ranging from $751,000 to $3.1 million. He currently serves on the House Armed Services and the Education and the Workforce committees and has been an outspoken opponent of President Trump and the Republicans in Congress.

Tomaszewski ran against Norcross in two previous elections and lost both times. His platform, according to his campaign website, includes a focus on more school security and a “homeland security makeover” that would include better training for first responders.

In contrast to Norcross and Tomaszewski, who emphasize their experience as labor leaders and electricians, IT director Carlson’s platform is based on an understanding of the important role computers and the internet will play in future lawmaking. He strongly supports protecting net neutrality and a robust tech agenda.

The 1st Congressional District includes the city of Camden and its suburbs, as well as portions of Burlington and Gloucester counties. Traditionally a reliably blue area, the First District intersected a “pivot county” (Gloucester) in the 2016 Presidential election – meaning it “pivoted” from supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, to voting for Trump in 2016. According to voter registration information for 2018, however, the district now looks concretely blue with 224,933 registered Democrats versus 81,800 registered Republicans.

District 6

Credit: NJTV News Online
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.
Frank Pallone Jr. is another strong Democratic incumbent. He’s facing opposition by Javahn Walker, a young Rutgers economics graduate currently working as an auditor in Somerset county. Pallone has served 30 years in Congress and has been a vocal supporter of expanding Medicare and was one of the original sponsors of the Affordable Care Act, with which he has become identified.

Walker notes on his website that Pallone has “done a decent service to this area since becoming Congressman” but he suggests he would be a “newer, fresher voice representing the people.” Pallone has a significant financial advantage over his opponent. His net worth ranges from $1.5 million to $5 million and he ranks 177th wealthiest in the House.

Walker is positioning himself as a socially progressive candidate fighting for LGBTQ rights and criminal justice reform, but he also lists an extensive plan for tax reform — he favors a millionaires tax and a flat tax of 35 percent for big businesses — and banking reform.

Conservative Republican Richard J. Pezzullo of Freehold is running unopposed in the primary.

The 6th Congressional District spans parts of Middlesex and Monmouth counties and includes the cities of New Brunswick, Asbury Park, and Perth Amboy. It’s also home to Rutgers and Monmouth universities and has been a historically blue district — 175,781 voters are registered Democrats and 70,918 are registered Republicans.

District 8

U.S. Rep. Albio Sires
Albio Sires is the Democratic incumbent; he was first elected in 2006 and is running unopposed. He is a Cuban native living in West New York. He serves on two congressional committees: Foreign Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure. Republican John R. Muniz of Jersey City is also running unopposed.

The 8th Congressional District includes portions of Newark and Jersey City — two of the state’s largest urban areas — as well as sections of Hudson and Essex counties, and a few municipalities in Bergen and Union counties. The district is firmly blue, with 204,215 registered Democrats, and 33,451 registered Republicans.

District 9

Democratic incumbent Bill Pascrell Jr. is facing opposition from William O. Henry. A Paterson native, Henry, who has degrees in social work and substance abuse counseling, is running on a platform of affordable healthcare. He’s facing a steep climb to Pascrell’s seat, however. Pascrell was ranked 74th wealthiest in the House, with a net worth ranging from $2.5 million to $8.5 million.

On the Republican side, candidate Eric P. Fisher of Fort Lee is running unopposed.

The 9th Congressional District contains portions of Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties, and is generally seen as safely blue, with more than one-third of voters (184,742) registered as Democrats.

District 10

U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.
The incumbent, Donald M. Payne Jr. (D), is opposed by Aaron Walter Fraser, a native of Harlem, New York who lives in Jersey City; he does not appear to have a campaign website.

Payne succeeded his father, Donald M. Payne, Sr., who died in 2012. Currently he serves on the Committee on Homeland Security and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. According to his campaign website, “job creation and security are at the forefront of his agenda.”

Agha Khan is running unopposed on the Republican ticket. Khan previously ran against U.S. Rep. Albio Sires in the 8th district and lost.

New Jersey’s 10th is the poorest congressional district in the state and covers most of Newark, parts of Jersey City and Bayonne, and several other Essex and Union county communities. It has the greatest Democratic majority in New Jersey. This is the only district in the state in which a party has a majority of registered voters, with just over half of voters (259,093 out of 448,469) registered as Democrats.