WAYNE – When many New Jersey political junkies think of CD-11, they likely think of Morris and Essex counties.
That’s understandable. Morris is the dominant county in the district and both incumbent Mikie Sherrill (Montclair) and GOP challenger Rosemary Becchi (Short Hills) live in Essex..
But Monday night found challenger Becchi opening her Passaic County headquarters in a quintessential Wayne location – a shopping mall storefront.
She and others spoke of the “opportunity” of taking back a district that was solidly Republican until Rodney Frelinghuysen bowed out of the race two years ago. Sherrill won the open seat over Jay Webber by a comfortable margin – about 47,000 votes. So, this is not only an opportunity for Becchi, it’s also a challenge. The district also includes a small part of Sussex County.
Those in attendance were optimistic, which is par for the course. Wine, beer and hot dogs helped the mood. Some thought Donald Trump atop the GOP ticket will help Becchi this fall. That could be a dubious assumption considering the president’s statewide poll numbers and the 2018 results.
On the latter point, one observer speculated that 2018 was a “wave” election for Dems and now that wave has ebbed.
What happens in sprawling Wayne quite clearly will determine how Becchi does in Passaic, which Sherrill won by about 3,000 votes in 2018.
Chris Vergano, the mayor of Wayne, pointed out that, “Wayne is a Republican town.” Probably in some ways, but Sherrill won the town by 1,400 votes.
Still, Vergano said Becchi has a message that can reach voters.
Also on hand was Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican candidate for governor next year.
Jack Ciattarell, a CPA, said he likes Becchi’s fiscal acumen, noting that he doesn’t see all that many tax attorneys running for Congress.
That profession can cut both ways.
A recent post on Sherrill’s Facebook page referred to Becchi (without mentioning her name) as a “corporate lobbyist with deep ties to Mitch McConnell.” McConnell is a villain for Democrats, just like Nancy Pelosi is a villain for Republicans. Expect to hear a lot about both of them as the campaign moves along.
Tonight was not the place for an in-depth discussion of Becchi’s work. But she did mention some of the legislation she’s helped write, especially the 529 college savings plan that helps parents finance their children’s college education.