Welcome to “Meet a Competitive House Race,” a Paste feature in which we highlight—you guessed it—a competitive 2018 House race from somewhere in America. Between now and election day, we’ll hopefully hit them all. You can see a full list of other House races we’ve profiled at the bottom of this page.
What’s the deal with today’s district? Where is it?
New Jersey’s 7th district is a large district in the northwest part of New Jersey that includes the counties Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren. The major cities include Lambertville and Summit.
Who the hell lives there? How do they vote?
The district is primarily white at 74.5 percent, followed by 11.3 percent Hispanic and 8.3 Asian. Most of the population is U.S.-born at 81.6 percent. The district is split between blue and red states, with no pivot states. It sits in a state that is historically blue and has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 2000, from Al Gore to Hillary Clinton. According to the 2018 Cook Partisan Voter Index, this district is R+3 in the past two presidential elections. This means the district is three points more Republican than the national average, despite it being in a completely blue state. The district has a clump of red counties next to its blue counties, which divide the votes and have ultimately kept conservative Leonard Lance in office.
Is the anti-Trump effect going to screw the Republican?
Based on how this district voted in the 2016 presidential election, probably.
Give me some more background
This extremely conservative district voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, which is more than strange. Despite comments in 2012 that Lance is not conservative enough, the district must have harshly disagreed with Trump’s platform in order to vote for a Democrat instead. Lance has done a pretty good job of distancing himself from all of Trump’s rampages and absurdities, especially when it comes to health care. However, at the moment the district seems to be leaning left and away from all of the Republican shenanigans in the Trump administration.
What’s up with the Republican(s)?
Leonard Lance was first elected in 2008 and has clung on to the seat since then. He previously served in the New Jersey General Assembly and the New Jersey State Senate. In the past, Lance has been criticized by other Republicans, such as his primary opponent David Larson in 2012, for not being conservative enough. According to BallotPedia, Larson said that Lance was one of those politicians who “call themselves conservatives, but support the Obama agenda.” However, Lance fought back by pointing to his voting record, specifically those that went against Obamacare. Despite his efforts to make himself seem like a full-on conservative in the Trump administration recently, he voted against Trump’s American Health Care Act which reformed Obamacare.
His platform on his website includes healthcare as one of his main planks. However, considering how his district voted in the 2016 election, it’s obvious they are not fans of the Trump administration, so Lance needs to distance himself with his voting choices. However, Lance’s recent votes on women’s rights and immigration are strictly conservative and in line with Trump. He voted yea on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. Going against Trump on one bill is probably not enough for this conservative district that doesn’t want Trump in office.
What’s up with the Democrat(s)?
There are currently three Democrats in the running for the primary: Tom Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for human rights under Obama, Peter Jacob, a social worker who ran against Lance in 2016, and Goutam Jois, an attorney who works on civil rights and immigration cases. All three are obviously against the Trump administration, which already gives them the upper hand against Lance.
Malinowski is keeping up with Lance’s campaign contributions at $528,472, followed by Jois at 290,396 and Jacob at $100,907. All three of them have similar Democratic platforms that involve helping the environment, gun safety, the economy and access to affordable healthcare. This district really seems to just be looking for the opposite of Trump and all of these candidates will provide that when compared to Lance. However, Malinowski is pulling ahead in the primaries as multiple strong candidates drop out of the race. Lisa Mandelblatt was at the top of the race in campaign contributions, surpassing even Lance at $643,734. However, Mandelblatt dropped out as well and it seems it’s all falling into place for Malinoski, the former Assistant Secretary of State.
What do the polls say?
It’s a little too early for major polls to come out on this race, but there are some interesting discrepancies between outlets concerning its toss-up status. The Cook Political Report declared it a toss-up, while Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales declared it a tilt Republican. However, a poll by Monmouth University Polling Institute revealed that in New Jersey, Democrats hold a 54 to 35 percent edge on Republicans. If this poll holds true come November, five Republican house seats could turn blue.
What’s weird about the district?
Beside the fact that this district is three points more Republican than the rest of nation, in the middle of a blue state, the district recently started leaning more to the left. In 2016, they voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Health care is an important topic in the district, which even Republican Lance knows, as he voted against the Obamacare reforms, and it could be one of the main topics of discussion.
Give me a prediction
We’re putting our bets on Malinowski, who seems to have a fighting chance against Lance with the Democrats on his side, and the current mindset of this conservative state.
—Minnesota 2nd: Jason Lewis vs. Angie Craig or Jeff Erdmann
—New York 19th: John Faso vs. Antonio Delgado or Pat Ryan
—California 10th: Jeff Denham vs. Michael Eggman or Josh Harder
—Nebraska 2nd: Don Bacon vs. Brad Ashford or Kara Eastman
—California 48th: Dana Rohrabacher, vs. some Democrat, eventually
—Florida 26th: Carlos Curbelo vs. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
—Colorado 6th: Mike Coffman vs. Jason Crow
—Washington 8th: Dino Rossi vs. too many infighting Dems
—Iowa 1st: Rod Blum vs. Probably Abby Finkenauer