The race between incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur and his Democratic opponent Andy Kim was a tossup going into election night.
But as the hours passed, the MacArthur campaign made the announcement the race was too close to call, in part because of a new law which Gov. Phil Murphy signed in August that automatically sent a mail-in ballot to anyone who had requested one in 2016 and who didn’t opt out in writing.
The chairman of Burlington County’s Board of Elections says they received 26,000 mail-in ballots, which is more than they usually get for general elections.
As of Wednesday morning, MacArthur was up by about 2,000 votes, but Burlington County is a Kim stronghold, and they still had 6,000 ballots to count. By 5 p.m., Democratic challenger Andy Kim had pulled ahead of incumbent Tom MacArthur with the race still not being called.
“Our model in our polling suggested that if turnout in Burlington County was 57 percent of the district then Andy Kim would win. I think right now it’s around 54, 55 percent of the district, which is why it’s such a close race,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray.
The district voted for former president Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and for President Donald Trump in 2016.
“I know I’ve raised a couple of eyebrows back in the spring when I said that four of the five Republican House seats in New Jersey were up for grabs, they were in play, and some people thought the MacArthur district was not going to be in play. But one thing I saw was the size and the potential turnout in Burlington County, much bigger than we saw even in the 2017 election,” Murray said.
Neither candidate spoke with press Wednesday, but on Election Day both candidates felt confident they would win.
“We’ve run a good, strong race and people know what I stand for,” MacArthur said.
“I feel loose. I feel excited, relaxed, and I’m really just energized and drawing energy from the people,” said Kim. “We’ve seen incredible turnout at the polls already today and I can’t wait to see what happens.”
So while the Democrats have regained control of the House, it’s still unclear whether MacArthur will hold on to his seat.
In addition to the mail-in ballots, there are provisional ballots, or those given to voters who did not vote by mail and instead showed up at polls. It could be Monday or Tuesday of next week before those are verified and counted.