POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Long-incumbent congressman seat challenged with sea of endorsements

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Sen. Dick Codey served up a candidate for Congress, to a crowd of breakfasting Democrats at the Florham Park Diner, all there to endorse Mikie Sherrill, who’s running to unseat 12-term Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Former Governor Dick Codey talked about meeting Sherrill.

“So, when I met her, after about a half hour, I’m like, holy sh**! She’s good. And I’m being honest with you. And my first impression was pretty good, because now she’s the presumptive favorite in the primary and maybe to win the race,” said Codey.

Sherrill wields a fierce resume: Naval Academy graduate, Navy chopper pilot, Assistant U.S. Attorney, mom of four. She stepped up to run after seeing a wave of activism sweep across the district following Donald Trump’s election: the Women’s March on Washington, constituents picketing Frelinghuysen’s office over his vote to repeal Obamacare and initial support for the tax reform bill. She says, now is the time.

“Yes, it certainly feels [this is the year of the woman, in politics]. Women have realized they have a lot at stake and they really need a seat at the table to advocate for themselves. So it does feel like a big up-swelling of women who are getting engaged right now,” said Sherrill.

Frelinghuysen’s never faced a serious re-election challenge. In fact, in seven election cycles, nobody ran against him in the Republican primary. But this time could be very different.

“He has been there for a long time, and perhaps he’s taking it for granted, that he’s going to be re-elected. But, I sense an activism and a passion, especially among women voters for a change,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.

More women are running for office. Sherrill’s one of seven running for House seats in New Jersey in 2018. The Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics has so far tallied 366 women across the nation running for House seats, most of them, Democrats. It’s about four times the number that ran two years ago.

“They had a candidate forum a little while ago, and there were five or six candidates out there including two women: Mikie Sherrill and Tamara Harris. And they clearly won the day. And they were tapping into an energy about how could we let someone who did the Access Hollywood tape be our president? I think there was a lot of disbelief that actually happened and a lot of anger and a lot of resolve to take it back in any way they can and Frelinghuysen is certainly in the cross hairs of that,” said Matthew Hale Associate Professor of Political Science at Seton Hall University.

Frelinghuysen campaign adviser Mike DuHaime said in a statement, “From serving in the Vietnam War to standing up to his own party to vote against the tax bill, he has never shied away from a tough decision or a tough fight. Mikie Sherrill clearly has the support of the wealthy Democrat elite of Washington, D.C. backing her, so we know this will be a well-funded, tough race, but we know Rodney’s record of service and accomplishment will earn him the support of his constituents in North Jersey.”

But the ground is shifting. Cook’s Political Report recently moved New Jersey’s 11th District from “leans Republican” into the “toss-up” column.