Leonard Lance is in the political fight of his life. Democrats with bows at the ready and arrows set are aiming directly at his congressional seat. It’s one he’s held onto despite the district narrowly swinging for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“I believe the best government is government from the center out, and proof of that is that I’ve been rated 13th in bipartisanship out of a House of Representatives of 435 members. And I am member of what is known as the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is the group in Washington in the House of Representatives that I think is the most important group,” Lance said.
But the race is even more competitive than analysts predicted in the wealthy suburban district where registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats and the registered independents outnumber both, there’s a common thread pulling their vote.
“These are the kind of moderate Republicans who are unhappy with Donald Trump and didn’t vote for him in 2016. They don’t want to support him with this election, and that is what’s giving Tom Malinowski the slight edge in this race,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray. “It’s close though because Leonard Lance is really a well-known commodity there. He has deep roots in this district.”
It’s those same roots Lance’s opponent — former Secretary of Human Rights Tom Malinowski — hopes to use against him.
“He is trying in his 10th year in the Congress to be what he has not been for the first nine years. He’s supported Republican leadership on almost everything — repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting social security, Medicare. And I get it, he’s scared now because he has a Democratic opponent who has a better than even chance of beating him,” Malinowski said.
Malinowski says he and his volunteers have knocked on almost 150,000 doors since June and plan to double that by Election Day. He’s focused on returning the State and Local Tax, or SALT, deduction for residents, which is a big issue for property owners. He’s also concerned with protecting health care and infrastructure needs.
Lance points to his own record, recently breaking party lines and voting against Trump’s health care and tax reform bill. His ads slam Malinowski’s views as being out-of-touch with the district.
But are his views too progressive for voters?
“I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am if that were the case,” Malinowski said. “I feel like we have made this kind of progress because we’re actually answering the questions that the voters are asking.”
The latest Monmouth University Poll shows Malinowski ahead 47 percent to 39 percent of all potential voters. But a recent attack ad from Malinowski’s team could be a game changer. Lance was recorded discussing the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
“I tend not to believe the charges,” Lance is heard saying in the ad.
Lance addressed the comments in the ad.
“I said that there should be a serious investigation, but of course if a person makes an allegation, that person has to testify. And at the time that I made my remarks, Dr. Ford’s lawyer indicated she might not testify. And it was important for the testimony to occur, and I believe the testimony did occur in a respectful fashion and I believe Dr. Ford was credible,” Lance said.
With just 34 days to go, expect to see the campaign rhetoric heat up and a tug-of-war for every vote.