This fall, congressional candidates will have to tailor their pitch to new districts, because the constitution mandates election district maps be redrawn after every decade’s census.
This redistricting reduced New Jersey’s congressional delegation from 13 to 12 members, realigning the districts and leading to a North Jersey showdown between Democratic Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell.
In South Jersey, the changes move Long Beach Island, Bass River Township and most of southern Ocean County south of Manahawkin out of the 3rd Congressional District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, and into the 2nd Congressional District, represented by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
The 3rd District also essentially received Brick Township in northern Ocean County in a swap for the reliably Democratic Cherry Hill, which moves to the 1st District, a safe Democratic seat.
In the now-sprawling 2nd District, which includes all of Salem, Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic and parts of Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Ocean counties, candidates will have to navigate through almost 2,000 square miles of territory.
Ron Filan, campaign manager for LoBiondo, responded by email to questions about the implications of the new map.
LoBiondo said he long enjoyed representing the 2nd District, and the new communities “are a welcome addition,” he wrote in an email, and that he has enjoyed meeting the residents. The towns “share similar policy concerns, geographical issues and an inherent desire to provide a positive future for their families.”
In the 2nd District, Cook Political Report rated the district as +1 Democrat, even as it rated the race between LoBiondo and his Democratic challenger Cassandra Shober as uncompetitive.
Frank Mahoney, the campaign coordinator for Shober, said that the district is so large that every day they find themselves in a new part of the state, whether it be Salem County, Cumberland County or wherever.
“It puts wear and tear on lesser-known candidates because you need to get out there,” Mahoney said.
The Cook Political Report, a national, nonpartisan political newsletter, assesses how partisan a given district is with its Partisan Voter Index, which measures how many more percentage points a generic party candidate would poll.
As a result of the changes, the 3rd District moved from +1 to +2 Republican, a slight improvement for Republicans. The race between Runyan and Democratic challenger Shelley Adler remains firmly competitive, it wrote, even as the district leans Republican.
In the 3rd District, both candidates’ campaigns said the changes had benefits for them.
Runyan’s spokesperson Chris Russell said they were disappointed the district no longer included Long Beach Island.
But he called the Cherry Hill-for-Brick swap “a seismic shift in our direction,” pointing to Democratic President Barack Obama’s overwhelming success in Cherry Hill in 2008 and Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s dominance in Brick the following year. They have tried to spend more time in Brick and other communities in Burlington County that were picked up.
Also, Russell said the campaign is raising the fact that Adler lives in Cherry Hill, and no longer in the district she seeks to represent. Adler has said she plans to move to Burlington County if elected.
Russell acknowledged that it is not illegal to run for a district one doesn’t live in. However, he said, “The average voter doesn’t understand why a person could run but not live in the same district as they do.”
Mike Muller, Adler’s campaign spokesman, said losing the southern Ocean County portion of the district was a major shift for the district.
He pointed to the fact that Obama won the old district by five percentage points. This was a year that Adler’s late husband John Adler became the first Democrat in decades to represent the district.
The district now is still winnable, Muller said, particularly in a presidential year that will draw more voters to cast their ballots. Muller said, “If you’re ever going to win it, will be in this year.”
He acknowledged that parts of the district have become more Republican, but he said, “We feel like at the end of the day it’s a tough race but it’s a doable race.”
While southern Ocean County is a Republican stronghold, the Ocean County Democrats have been “nothing but helpful and nothing but excited about this change. They have opened up their arms and made us feel welcome.”
The campaign also plans to visit Burlington County, he said.
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