Amid signs of momentum for New Jersey Democrats, challenger Stephanie Schmid and her allies anticipate an underdog Nov. 3rd win against incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4), a 39-year incumbent whom Schmid criticizes as absent, silent, and attentive to a wrong-headed ideological agenda in the middle of multiple on-the-ground crises.
Schmid faced off against her opponent this past week in an Asbury Park Press debate and interpreted as a favorable sign Smith’s eagerness to go negative.
“Congressman Smith can’t run on his record and he has done nothing to shore up our healthcare,” Schmid told InsiderNJ in the aftermath of the debate. “In July he voted against a bill that would have strengthened it. I just think his performance in the debate and his cavalier answers indicate that he doesn’t understand our community.”
In the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, President Donald J. Trump confessed to reporter Bob Woodward that the virus was a killer, and yet told the American public that it was not a big deal. Schmid suggested Smith may have exercised the same obfuscating attitude. “He’s the third or fourth most senior member of congress. What did he know about this pandemic and what didn’t he tell us? I believe Congressman Smith was privy to that information [about the virus] as well.”
“Thirty-nine years is too long,” added the retired Foreign Service officer, a Yale graduate and women’s health advocate.
Instead of educating the public about the pandemic, Smith was keyed into his pro-life agenda.
“The date was March 15th, we can all remember,” said Schmid, referring to the early days of the virus. “I did my last event on March 11th, and my staff met on March 12th. We all began sheltering in place as [Governor Phil] Murphy made his announcement. Congressman Smith literally signed a letter to Northern Ireland.”
“The overreach of Westminster and Her Majesty’s Government had been one of the major irritants that long prevented such an accord, which is why devolution was such an important point,” he wrote.
“In the 22 years since the Good Friday Agreement, much progress has been made, but that progress was due to the commitment of all parties to the accord.
“Imposing a liberal abortion regime upon Northern Ireland shows a contempt for the Good Friday Agreement’s devolution provisions, and weakens the entire agreement, which is the framework for the fragile peace that Northern Ireland has known. Finally, imposition of Section 9 — which provides for a far more liberal abortion regime than currently exists in the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom … runs counter to the fundamental democratic principles of self-governance and self-determination.”
He urged the Secretary of State to “let Northern Ireland work this issue out through its own representative Assembly”.
Schmid said Smith was more concerned with putting restrictions on women’s health in Northern Ireland than he was with the health and welfare of constituents in New Jersey.
“Look at his FEC report,” said Schmid. “It’s filled with extreme right wing groups. Congressman Smith’s wife is a highly paid lobbyist. I stand by our mailers.”
The Democratic challenger said that when Smith isn’t trying to impose his pro life agenda on Northern Ireland and failing to warn residents about a health crisis at home, he likewise was derelict in the face of Hurricane Isaias.
“It was a very intense storm that left most residents, including myself, without power,” Schmid said. “I was without power for five days. Working from home, sheltering in place, and not being able to go to cooling centers, and Congressman Smith issues a throw-away press release. Post-Hurricane Sandy we shouldn’t just do better we should demand better.”
An aggressive Schmid launched her campaign amid fanfare but found herself – along with everyone else – upended by the COVID-19 crisis. Still, she said she trusts her campaign has remained on target.
“Of course it’s been a challenge , but one of the most important things is we innovated very quickly, and did over ten public town halls,” said the challenger. “We started doing socially distanced events with masks, drive-by events, or meeting in a park. We built a grassroots army or people working behind the scenes, and we have made over 80K post primary phone calls. We have a team of almost 200 volunteers the people we talk to are so thankful of the outreach and desperate to hear something hopeful.
“It’s going to be close,” Schmid added, “but we’re going to win by several thousand votes. This race looks a lot like NJ2 and NJ3. This is not about Republican versus Democrats. It’s science versus lies. Do you want to live in a democracy or something that looks like an authoritarian regime?”