Five Things (Among Some Others) to Consider Regarding the CD-3 Contest


As Donald Trump’s controversial presidency unfolds, Congressional races across the country are looking to be tough fights for Republicans this November.

New Jersey is no exception, where at least one – or even conceivably all, according to Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray – districts could flip from red to blue.

In the 2nd and 11th districts, longtime representatives Frank LoBiondo and Rodney Frelinghuysen, respectively, have bowed out of potentially tooth and nail Trump-encumbered fights to keep their seats.

Up north in the 7th District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance wants to ward off the challenger, apparent Democratic frontrunner Tom Malinowski.

Yet with all this talk, what’s happening on the Ocean County Shore and in the pines above Bass River, all part of the 3rd District and represented by Republican Tom MacArthur since 2014?

Following the late John Adler’s Obama-aided 2008 Democratic Party victory following 15 years of red Jim Saxton rule, the district has been Republican since 2010, when waves of Tea Party Republicans turned the House of Representatives from blue back to reliably red.

Comprised of over 700,000 residents, the district stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the iconic Jersey shore. CD-3 voted in favor of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, while Trump won by six points in 2016.

Can a Democrat, Andy Kim, who was a national security advisor under Obama, dethrone MacArthur and change that trend?

It depends.

Here are five considerations…


1. New Jersey and Trump, not perfect together

The Monmouth University Poll released earlier this week indicated that President Donald Trump’s support continued to dwindle across the Garden State.

Tuesday’s poll, which surveyed 703 adult New Jerseyans, indicated that 34 percent of them approved Trump’s job, compared to the 61 percent who disapproved.

But the opposite has largely seemed to be the case in the 3rd district. In 2016, 179,096 Ocean County voters cast their ballot for Trump, over the 87,150 Hillary Clinton supporters. In Burlington County, Clinton garnered the voter’s support, but by a smaller margin than Trump’s Ocean victory; she won 121,725 votes compared to Trump’s 89,272 votes.

Matthew Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University, indicated this shouldn’t be a surprise.

“The 3rd District is probably the most conservative district in the whole state,” Hale said. “If you were to break down support for Trump within Congressional districts in New Jersey, Trump is probably the most popular in the 3rd District.”

Hale added: “I think that if there was a hope for Republicans to hold onto a Congressional seat, then the 3rd would be it.”

But Andy Kim’s campaign manager, Zach Carroll, suggested the waning support of Trump would extend to CD-3’s Republican base.

“He hasn’t seen a fight like this before,” Carroll said of MacArthur.

“MacArthur voting the way he did, crafting the healthcare bill, and voting the way he did on taxes, after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical companies, that’s the kind of stuff that people can’t stand,” Carroll added.

With the majority of the district’s Democrats concentrated in Burlington County, Kim’s best shot would be there, suggested Patrick Murray, who leads the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“I think a lot of people think that the size of the Trump contingent in Ocean County, in terms of those voters who are gung-ho Trump supporters, is gonna be more than enough to help MacArthur over the top,” Murray said. “But it’s counter-balance by the potential for Democratic surge in Burlington County.”


2. You gosh darn outsiders

Each candidate and his base have accused the other of carpetbagging, that is, moving into an area where they have no local connection, in order to seek election.

In 2014, MacArthur resigned as mayor of Randolph, where he lived for years, and moved to Toms River, where he owned a house for years, so he could run for Congress.

“It’s a different story,” said Bill Layton, who chairs the Burlington County GOP. “Tom was paying taxes in the district, Tom understood what was going on in the district.”

Carroll, in a statement to Observer, said “Unlike multi-millionaire Tom MacArthur, who owns multiple expensive homes outside the district and move here from North Jersey just to run for Congress, Andy grew up in this district and is raising his family in this community.”

Chris Russell, a political consultant for MacArthur, fired back.

“Did Andy Kim lie to get a substantial property tax break on his nearly $1 million condo in Washington D.C. or did he lie where he lived so he could register to vote in South Jersey and run for Congress here – which is it?” Russell wrote.


3. Solid Democratic fundraising

Public documents from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) shows Kim within range of MacArthur on the fundraising front.

Between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, Kim raised $1.13 million for his campaign, compared to MacArthur’s $1.8 million.

“Aimee Belgard raised $1.7 million, we’re at $1.2 million right now, and that’s of March 31, so we’ll be where Aimee was in probably a couple months, where she was for the entire campaign,” Carroll said.

Of course if push comes to shove, MacArthur, with his $53 million net worth, can dig into his own pockets to self-finance campaign.

4. Andy Kim’s race

Sources who, declined to be named, suggested that the retired, white male voting base would be turned away from Kim simply due to his race, and that could be enough to deprive him of a victory.

He’s the son of Korean immigrants, and soon after throwing his hat in the ring, received the endorsement of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Rising & Empowering (ASPIRE) PAC.

“I hope as a country that we’ve gone beyond that,” Layton responded.

5. CD-3 is justtttttttt…..

Sorry, I fell asleep while writing that sentence.

Hale has argued that much of the focus is on the Congressional races to the north and south of the 3rd district.

Just below CD-3, State Senator Jeff Van Drew is the likely Democratic contender for the seat formerly held by longtime Congressman LoBiondo.

Despite often voting to the right of many of his blue colleagues in the State Legislature, Van Drew is the most realistic pick for such a conservative district.

Up north, Mikie Sherrill, a retired U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor, is fixing to take Frelinghuysen’s seat after he opted not to run this November.

Lance is also in for a potential quarrel against Democrat Malinowski. In the 5th, Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer will have to fight to keep his seat in the battleground district.

“There are other district in New Jersey where the Democrats are polling a lot stronger, so the national money from the DNC is probably flowing more to the 7th and the 11th, apparently even the 2nd,” Hale said.

“Even if the Democrats in Washington consider the 3rd a potential pickup, there are a dozen seats in the Mid-Atlantic region alone that they think are even greater for potential pickup, so where do you spend your money, you start at the top of that list,” Murray added. “The question is does it filter its way down to Andy Kim or not.”

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