House incumbents prevail across New Jersey as Democrats show strength

One race — Rep. Tom Malinowski’s against Tom Kean Jr. — remains up in the air

By: - November 9, 2022 12:52 am

Rep. Josh Gottheimer won a fourth term in Congress on Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Frank Pallotta. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democratic incumbents in almost all of New Jersey’s competitive House races were projected to fend off their Republican challengers Tuesday, with the most closely watched race still too close to call.

The victories of Democratic Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Josh Gottheimer, and Andy Kim came as Democrats nationwide enjoyed a much stronger performance at the polls than even some Democrats had been predicting.

“Did we do it or what?” Gottheimer said at a victory party in Hasbrouck Heights.

Sherrill, speaking in Montclair, credited her win with New Jersey voters’ desire to “lead the fight to hold and protect our democracy.”

“We’re leading the fight to protect choice, we’re leading the fight to protect voting rights, we’re leading the fight to protect civil rights, and we are leading the fight to protect our democratic rights. We will always do that in New Jersey,” she said.

Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat who faced a much more difficult path to victory than his colleagues, was lagging Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. by nearly 12,000 votes as of early Wednesday morning.

The rest of New Jersey’s House incumbents were reelected handily, and newcomer Robert Menendez Jr. — son of Sen. Bob Menendez — won the seat held by retiring Rep. Albio Sires.

Gottheimer, who is projected to defeat Republican Frank Pallotta for the second time in a row in the 5th District, used his victory speech to issue a challenge to House Republican leadership.

“It’s up to you if you want to govern together and put country first or if you want to obstruct and kowtow to extremism ideology. That’s the choice,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Republicans will flip enough seats to gain control of the House.

Polling place issues

Kim’s projected victory over Republican challenger Bob Healey Jr, a former punk rock frontman turned yacht dealer, came after a day of confusion in the 3rd District.

Optical scanners failed in machines in Mercer County, forcing voters to use regular paper ballots that were then collected to be scanned at the office of the county’s election board. Officials said the change in procedure was likely to delay results.

“Every ballot that has been cast will be counted, no voter will be disenfranchised, and the integrity of the election is intact and secure,” Nathaniel Walker, the county’s superintendent of elections, said on Facebook.

Sherrill wins third term

Sherrill sailed to victory in her campaign against former Passaic County assistance prosecutor Paul DeGroot in the 11th District.

“All of you here should be so incredibly proud of what we’re doing here. It doesn’t surprise me that here in New Jersey we’re leading the way on so many things because from the founding of our nation, the very founding of our nation, it’s been New Jersey holding the line,” Sherrill said to supporters Tuesday night.

Like Kim’s and Gottheimer’s districts, the 11th District became safer for Democrats after last year’s redistricting, shedding all its towns in solidly Republican Sussex County and small portions of Morris County to stretch further into largely Democratic Essex County.

Even so, Sherrill spent voluminously as she sought reelection, disbursing more than $7.5 million to defend her seat by late October, more than 11 times what her challenger had raised by that point in time.

At a Republican election party in Basking Ridge, DeGroot said the nation is “in trouble.”

“We are on the wrong track on energy. We are on the wrong track on immigration. We are on the wrong track on criminal justice reform, the wrong track on spending, on taxes, on Afghanistan, and the military. A Biden administration with Mikie Sherrill is causing this harm. And that’s why I got involved.”

‘Working together’

Gottheimer’s victory over Pallotta was fueled by large margins out of Bergen County, where Gottheimer led by more than 34,000 votes on Tuesday night with results in from most of the county’s districts, leaving Pallotta without a path to victory despite incomplete results in Passaic and Sussex counties.

The conservative Republican’s campaign, a repeat of his 2020 bid for Congress, drew little attention or resources from national groups.

Gottheimer, a moderate Democrat whose position as co-chair of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus has sometimes drawn national attention, noted his bipartisan bonafides Tuesday night.

“We realized that working together wasn’t a weakness but a strength to be harnessed,” he said. “And if you look at the unity, it proves that in our country, diversity of ideas and backgrounds are our greatest strength and always will be.”

Other Races

Most of New Jersey’s 12 congressional districts did not host competitive races this year.

Menendez easily defeated Republican Marcos Arroyo in the overwhelmingly Democratic 8th District.

Rep. Donald Norcross is projected to defeat Republican Claire Gustafson, whom he also beat when she ran for the 1st District’s seat in 2020.

In the 4th District, GOP Rep. Chris Smith, who is among the longest-serving sitting members of congress, easily defeated Democrat challenger Matthew Jenkins.

Voters in the 6th District reelected Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone over Monmouth County Commissioner Director Sue Kiley.

Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell defeated Republican Billy Prempeh — another repeat challenger — in the solidly blue 9th District, and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat, batted off a challenge from Republican Darius Mayfield in the 12th district.

Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew is projected to defeat Democratic attorney Tim Alexander in the 2nd District. Van Drew was elected as a Democrat in 2018 but swapped parties the following year. His win Tuesday marks his second campaign win as a Republican.

In the 10th district, Democratic Rep. Donald Payne Jr. again won reelection by broad margins, this time over Republican David Pinckney.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.