Just six months into the 116th session of Congress, the races for New Jersey’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 2020 election have already drawn some $9.4 million in campaign contributions. Most of that money has flowed into the coffers of Democratic incumbents.
Last November’s midterm elections turned the state almost entirely blue, as voters swept Democrats into four previously red districts: Two incumbent Republicans — Tom MacArthur (R-3rd) and Leonard Lance (R-7th) — lost, while two others — Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th) — retired. Only one district remains in GOP hands, with longtime Rep. Chris Smith holding on to the fourth district, which bisects the state and stretches from Hamilton in Mercer County through much of Monmouth County, and to Bay Head in Ocean County.
The blue wave that washed the Democrats into office was largely seen as a rejection of President Donald Trump. A modern-day-record 56 percent of those registered voted. But it’s unclear what might happen next year when the president is on the ballot. Presidential election years always have higher turnouts, and if more Republicans go to the polls, or independents lean conservative, at least some of the freshman Democrats could find themselves kicked out of Washington.
Aggressively raising money
So the newcomers are not taking any chances and have been aggressively raising money to ensure they will be competitive in a state where it’s costly to run, sandwiched between two of the most expensive television markets in the nation. Three candidates raised more than $1 million apiece in the first six months of this year, with the fourth taking in $755,000, according to the most recent candidate filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Still, no one can compete with sophomore Josh Gottheimer, the Democrat who pulled off the ultimate upset in unseating Republican incumbent Scott Garrett in a long-standing red district that includes the conservative northwestern part of the state. The district chose Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Gottheimer raised more than $1.7 million between January 1 and June 30 of this year, FEC data show. That makes him the ninth largest House fundraiser in the nation.
Only one nonincumbent ranks among the 10 New Jersey candidates who have brought in the most money. That’s Tom Kean Jr., a Republican state senator who is trying to win the sprawling seventh district that stretches from Hunterdon County in the west to Essex and Union in the east, and then up into Warren County. Kean, who lost a prior bid for the GOP nomination for the seat in the 2000 election, and lost a 2006 U.S. Senate race against Democrat Bob Menendez, has raised more than $500,000.
Who will run for Senate?
One of the state’s U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot next year as well, but who will run will depends on the outcome of the Democratic presidential primaries. Incumbent Cory Booker is among the two dozen Democrats vying for the nomination. A state law enacted last year allows a New Jersey candidate to run for both U.S. Senate and president at the same time. So far, Hirsh Singh, who ran back-to-back unsuccessful campaigns for governor and Congress, is the only Republican who has raised money — $78,125, according to the FEC. Booker is putting all his effort into his presidential campaign and has transferred $2.7 million from his Senate account to his presidential coffers, but still reported $184,186 in contributions toward a Senate race in the first six months of this year.
These are all the candidates the FEC shows as having reported receiving contributions during the first half of this year and the amounts they raised, spent and had in the bank as of June 30: