11th Congressional District race heats up

Briana Vannozzi, Anchor | September 7, 2018 | Politics

With polls leaning slightly Democratic in the 11th District, the Republican State Committee released a new website late in the week calling candidate Mikie Sherrill an agent of the Phil Murphy and Bob Menendez team.

“I view it very much as an offensive move. I don’t think Mikie Sherrill is who she says she is,” said New Jersey Republican Party Chair Doug Steinhardt. “She’s not the moderate she portrays herself to be. Her supporters are from that radical left wing of the Democratic Party. Those are the people that are filling her coffers. Those are the people with whom she marches. Those are the people that are manning her phone banks, and if she gets sent to Congress she becomes a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi.”

It’s not a new talking point for the GOP, but it’s one they’re counting on, especially as Sherrill continues a high-profile campaign. Just two days after former Vice President Joe Biden was on the stump, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly appeared on the trail Friday giving a hearty endorsement. It’s part of their national tour supporting gun reform and veterans running for office.

“Do you have the courage to fight? Stand with me, vote, vote, vote,” said Giffords.

“You have to work incredibly hard,” Kelly said. “Don’t let some poll fool you that might say she’s ahead. These seats, people don’t give up. The other side is going to be working incredibly hard.”

Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the head in 2011 while serving in Congress. Kelly is a retired astronaut and New Jersey native. Together, their organization has helped pass gun reform laws across the country and endorsed officials who support it.

“I’m fighting hard to get in Congress and pass good legislation so we can have things like universal background checks, make sure domestic abusers don’t have access to firearms, make sure people on the no fly list or the terrorist watch list don’t have access to firearms,” Sherrill said.

Sherrill is going toe-to-toe with Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber, who recently had sitting Vice President Mike Pence headline a fundraiser and endorsement. That may be the shot in the arm his campaign needs. As of the last filing in June, Sherrill had raised six times more with nearly $3 million on hand.

“People know who I am. They know my message. They’re not going to get too caught up in the proxy game and evaluate the candidates on their own merits. And when they do that they’re going to see those stark differences on taxes, on the economy, immigration, on a number of issues down the line and that’s why we’re so hopeful and optimistic about the outcome of the race,” Webber said.

Webber said Friday he takes a common sense safety approach after coming under fire for votes in the state Legislature. His party sees the accelerated campaign pace and appearances as a good sign.

“I think it’s interesting you have high-profile Democrats coming to New Jersey because I would think three or four months ago they would have written New Jersey off and figured it’s not a competitive place. But I’m encouraged by the fact you have Joe Biden here, you have Hillary Clinton coming. I think they realize that there’s a race between now and November and they need to spend some time paying attention to New Jersey,” Steinhardt said.

“I’m a Republican. I was an elected Republican for many years, but gun violence matters to me because I have young grandchildren and they’re being affected by it,” said 11th Congressional District voter Barbara Curran.

The question comes down to future support for either candidate and whether bringing in these power players will move the needle for voters.