POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Congressional primary filing deadline kicks midterms into high gear

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

In the U.S. House of Representatives, New Jersey has 12 seats. Six of them look safe for the Democratic incumbents Donald Norcross, Frank Pallone, Albio Sires, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne Jr., and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Six others could change hands in November, including all five Republican-held seats. Monday was the filing deadline, so we know who is definitely running.

Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo in District 2 is retiring. Democrat Jeff Van Drew and two others are running in the June primary to fill his seat. Wealthy engineer Hirsh Singh, former Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi and three other Republicans have filed.

Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring in District 11. Democrats Mikie Sherrill and Tamara Harris are competing in the primary. Republican Asm. Jay Webber and Totowa banker Antony Ghee are vying for the GOP slot. Webber is well-known. Ghee says Webber is too conservative.

Veteran journalist and author of Politifax, Nick Acocella, says those two open seats are the likeliest to go to the opposite party.

“They are probably most ripe for the picking by Democrats. Democrats might have won those seats even if the incumbents had run, part of the reason they got out,” he said.

In District 7, Republican Rep. Leonard Lance faces a serious challenge in November. Former State Department official Tom Malinowski, Peter Jacob, who ran against Lance the last two times, and Goutam Jois are the Democratic primary contestants.

The next most vulnerable is Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur. Former White House official Andy Kim is the lone Democrat. Acocella believes the incumbent has that one.

“I think that’s the least likely one to fail because it’s in both the New York and Philadelphia media markets, so any media buy you do is very, very, very expensive,” said Acocella.

And, MacArthur is a wealthy man.

Rep. Chris Smith will be the hardest Republican to topple. Democrats Joshua Welle and Jim Keady filed for the primary in his district.

“That’s as safe anything can be. The problem is we’re expecting a wave election. If it’s 20-seat wave going for the Democrats, Smith is perfectly fine. MacArthur is perfectly fine. If it’s a 60-seat win, as some people are saying, all bets are off,” noted Acocella.

The only Democratic incumbent who could face a strong challenge in the fall is Rep. Josh Gottheimer in District 5. Perennial candidate Steve Lonegan and lawyer John McCann are fighting for the Republican nomination.

“My guess is Josh is relatively safe. The Republicans are engaged in a bloody primary. Nobody really knows who’s going to emerge out of that. And in a blue wave year, a marginal Democrat is safer than you would be, especially running for a second term. A second term is when you try to knock these guys out,” commented Acocella.

The New Jersey Division of Elections says 33 people were in line in Trenton at 3 p.m. Monday filing petitions. The primary is June 5.