Two political up and comers battle for a seat in CD11

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

This year’s midterm elections will determine the nation’s political direction for the next two years. New Jersey is being watched as a potential bellwether with three currently Republican seats legitimately too close to call. In the 11th District, Democrat Mikie Sherrill and Republican Jay Webber are running to succeed retiring Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen.

Mikie Sherill and Jay Webber come to this election from very different paths. He’s been a conservative state lawmaker for a decade. She’s a former lieutenant commander and Navy helicopter pilot. He’s raised just over a million dollars for his campaign, modest by today’s standards. She has raised at least seven times that amount, and has Democrats across the country calling her a political rock star in the making.

“Nobody’s a rock star yet. I mean, she’s good, she’s a great campaigner. She raised buckets full of money, but it’s too early. We love doing that with our politicians — ‘They’re going to be governor someday’, ‘They’re going to be Speaker of the House someday’. Nobody knows,” said Politifax editor Nick Acocella.

You could argue that Webber, with perhaps the most established conservative bona fides in the state, is a Republican rock star in the making. As impressive a physical presence as Sherrill with a Harvard Law degree to match hers from Georgetown. Early on he kept his distance from the ruling Republicans, but down the stretch, he’s embraced the party and the president.

“The human impact of this tax cut is felt across New Jersey and across the country. People are more secure in their jobs. They run a small business, they have the ability and the confidence to go forward in this economy and start a small business. The arrow is pointing up in this country and it’s in large part due to that tax cut. We should be celebrating it, not looking for that dark lining in the silver cloud that America is enjoying,” Webber said at their debate in early October.

Sherrill has disputed that sunny assessment and called Webber out for being a Trump Republican, but when given the opportunity to trash Trump directly, she’s mostly taken a pass.

“You know, I have taken a strong stand against his policies towards women, and, in fact have expressed my concerns about his policies towards women in I think about the strongest way I can express them in running for Congress,” Sherrill said.

“This is a traditionally Republican district. Rodney Frelinghuysen has had it for 22 years and there are a lot more Republicans than Democrats here and I think some of them are starting to come home, and I think that’s why it’s tightening,” said New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti.

In many of these contested races in New Jersey, turnout is key. The rain doesn’t help either side, really, because, even in a critical midterm, folks can sometimes opt to stay dry at home and just watch what happens on TV, which makes today an even tougher day for campaign workers.