Trump a polarizing figure in 11th District race

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Female legislators joined Democratic congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill in a Montclair frame shop and bashed Republican opponent Jay Webber’s record on women’s issues like health care and pay equity, and his support of Donald Trump, in particular.

“Webber has told you who he is by his votes, by his action, and by his association with the most right-wing, oppressive policies embodied in the body of Donald Trump,” said state Sen. Nia Gill.

“If we know nothing else about Jay Webber, it’s he doesn’t belong in Congress. We’re not sending Donald Trump a vote from the 11th District,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

Sherrill maintains a slim, single-digit lead in the historically Republican 11th District where a recent Monmouth Poll gave the President a 48 percent approval rating. Those metrics perhaps motivated her to carefully measure comments on Trump, stating her candidacy is evidence of her opposition.

“Me tweeting out constantly in the middle of the night about divisive things and ranting about Trump, I don’t think would move the agenda in the 11th District forward. I don’t think it’s productive. And I think people here, what they want me to do is come up with a plan for how we move the country forward,” Sherrill said.

Sherrill leads Webber in fundraising — $7 million to Webber’s $1.2 million as of Sept. 30 — and has 19 times more cash on hand. The Morris County conservative has welcomed Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan to the district to campaign for Webber. The president, who endorsed Webber in a tweet, recently offered to host a ritzy fundraiser for him in Washington. It’s an offer Webber embraced.

“It’s coming down to the wire, so it’s exciting and when you have the White House invest in you like this, it means the race is nip and tuck and they know we can win,” said Webber.

“I think he’s just trying to capitalize on whatever support the president has among people who might not be habitual midterm voters but who see this as a referendum on the president, who support the president and who therefore are going to feel as if it is really incumbent on them to turn out and support him on Election Day,” said Krista Jenkins, executive director of the FDU PublicMind Poll.

The president is known for transactional politics, but Webber denied that Trump’s substantial investment in his race puts him in the president’s pocket. Sherrill called it “partisanship in its purest form” and said that Webber would always put Washington’s interests ahead of his constituents.

“I’d say that is stunning in its hypocrisy. This is a woman who accuses me of being a partisan, and then puts all principle and ethics aside to say she’s going to support Bob Menendez for the U.S. Senate,” said Webber.

The 11th’s divided political landscape is evident in scientifically random interviews with voters.

“I made a commitment myself for Jay Webber. I’m a patriotic Republican. I have no problem saying that. And I’m a Donald Trump supporter,” said Bud Vincent, a Webber supporter.

“Trump has everything to do with it and I’m voting for Democrats only. So I don’t really even care at this point. I’m just so fed up with what’s going on in Washington. I just have to make a vote of protest,” said Sherrill supporter Carolyn Blanckmeister.

A recent Monmouth Poll measured the undecideds in this district at only 6 percent. That means most people have made up their minds, but the battle continues over Donald Trump and those wavering ballots.