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NJ’s New Congressional Delegation: Younger, Greener, Not as Wealthy

The Garden State’s new representatives are very different from those they are replacing

Mikie Sherrill & Tom Malinowski
Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski are among New Jersey's newly elected Democratic representatives

New Jersey’s congressional delegation got not only much bluer as a result of last Tuesday’s elections, but it also got younger, greener and poorer.

Voters likely elected four new representatives — the results for the 3rd district seat in Burlington and Ocean counties has not been called, pending provisional ballots. But it’s unlikely Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur will be able to overcome the 3,427 deficit he had as of Saturday. New blood bringing fresh views to Congress was at least part of the winning candidates’ appeal to voters and they are very different from those they are replacing.

The most obvious difference is party: Jeff Van Drew, Tom Malinowski, Mikie Sherrill and Andy Kim are all Democrats elected to replace Republicans in what had previously been solidly red districts. Should Kim’s victory hold in the 3rd district, the state’s 12-member delegation will have only one Republican, 38-year Rep. Chris Smith of the 4th district.

That party shift also brings a geographic shift in power. Two years ago, before Republican Scott Garrett lost his seat in the 5th district, three of the state’s 12 representatives hailed from the four red northwestern Jersey counties. The 116th Congress will mark the first time in decades that the Republican Northwest — Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties — has not had a single representative living within at least one of those areas.

Milicent Fenwick
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Millicent Fenwick

Another difference is the gender makeup. The state will send two women to Congress — Sherrill and for a third term Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat. That hasn’t happened since 1983, when Reps. Millicent Fenwick and Marge Roukema, both Republicans, served together. It will also be the first time two female Democrats represented New Jersey in Congress. The state also had two women in Congress from 1975 through 1979: Fenwick and Helen Stevenson Meyner, a Democrat. Sherrill is only the seventh woman elected to Congress from New Jersey. The state has not yet elected a woman to the U.S. Senate.

Younger, less experienced

New Jersey’s new crop of representatives is also younger, a cumulative 68 years younger. MacArthur, 58, would be the youngest of the outgoing congressmen. The other three men are all retirement-aged. Both Rodney Frelinghuysen of the 11th district and Frank LoBiondo of the 2nd are 72. At 65, Van Drew is the only baby boomer among the congressmen-elect and the oldest. Malinowski, 53, and Sherrill, 46, are both members of Generation X. Kim, at 36, would be the state’s first millennial in Congress. Both Kim and Sherrill have children in elementary school or younger, the first time a sitting New Jersey representative will have that experience in many years.

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

With the loss of four representatives, the state is losing a lot of experience. Combined, the outgoing Republicans have 62 years in Congress. With Frelinghuysen, New Jersey loses the chair of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. LoBiondo chairs the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, while Rep. Leonard Lance of the 7th district is vice chair of a communications and technology subcommittee.

Chairmanships in Congress tend to go to those based on seniority — Frelinghuysen is 50th most senior representative at the moment. Smith is fourth most senior and chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, although he will lose that position when the Democrats take control on January 3.

Other sitting New Jersey representatives will move into positions of power. Rep. Frank Pallone of the 6th district is on tap to chair the Committee on Energy and Commerce, while Bill Pascrell of the 9th stands to chair the Subcommittee on Trade of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Of the four new members, only Van Drew has prior elective experience. He has served in the state Legislature for the last 16 years, first in the Assembly and currently in the Senate. Prior to that, he was a county freeholder, a mayor and a town committee member. None of the others have any similar governing experience.

Impressive credentials

Andy Kim
Likely to go to Washington: Democrat Andy Kim

The other three new representatives have some other impressive credentials, however. Both Malinowski and Kim were Rhodes Scholars and both also held positions in past administrations in Washington. Malinowski has also had about a decade of experience in politics behind the scenes, writing speeches and doing policy work. Sherrill is a Navy veteran who also served as a federal prosecutor.

And the new New Jersey delegation will be significantly poorer, by at least $56 million. MacArthur currently ranks as the 19th wealthiest member of the House, with a minimum net worth of $30 million, according to Roll Call. Frelinghuysen is two spots back, worth at least $28 million. Both men could be worth considerably more, but because representatives and candidates need only report their assets and liabilities in ranges, it is impossible to give a more precise value. Lance is also worth more than a million, while LoBiondo has an estimated net worth of $200,000.

Two of the four representatives-elect are also worth more than a million. Using Roll Call’s methodology, NJ Spotlight calculates Van Drew’s net worth as of last year to be at least $2.7 million, while Sherrill’s was a minimum of $1.1 million. Malinowski’s net worth was about $492,000, while Kim’s was $131,000. These calculations include assets held jointly with a spouse and for minor children, but they do not include the value of an individual’s home.

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