Sabatos Crystal Ball

New Jersey Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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New Jersey (03) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


July 30, 2008 Update:

Republicans got their man in executive Chris Myers, but their chances at keeping the seat are rapidly slipping away. In a district rooted in the expensive Philadelphia media market, money will be paramount for general election success. Democrat John Adler is doing fine with $720K raised in the second quarter, but Myers has fallen behind with only $249K (including a $50K self-loan) during the same period and little in the bank after a hard-fought primary. Although Myers is personally wealthy, he does not have the resources to fully fund such an expensive race, and is he hoping that retiring Representative Jim Saxon cashes in some of his $1 million warchest to elect a suitable replacement. If Myers does not pick up the pace, he risks being overwhelmed by a barrage of Adler ads in what is likely to be a very Blue Jersey come November.

June 4, 2008 Update:

State Senator John Adler won an uncontested victory in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Jim Saxon, while Chris Myers, the mayor of Medford Township, beat out three challengers in the Republican primary. This is another race where the lack of an incumbent makes things much more interesting. Saxon’s reelection in 2006 by 58 percent of the vote seems to indicate a strong Republican-leaning district, but Bush only carried the area by 3 points in 2004. Adler’s ability to save his resources, while Myers had to spend on a nomination battle, should help Adler overcome some of the district’s possible Republican tendencies. But until we see how the candidates develop their campaigns over the next few months, this race is still definitely a toss-up.


Background

In the race to replace retiring Representative Jim Saxon, Republicans don’t know who they want to fight more—the presumptive Democratic nominee state senator John Adler or themselves. The GOP nomination has split into a bitter inter-county, intra-state battle between Lockheed Martin vice president Chris Myers and freeholder Jack Kelly. Myers, who can self-fund, has the endorsement of Rep. Saxon and support of the Burlington County GOP, but Kelly has enlisted the endorsement of neighboring Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ4) and has the Ocean County GOP at his back.

Although Myers likely has the nomination upper hand, protracted squabbling plays into the hands of the sole Democratic candidate state senator John Adler, who has quietly amassed a respectable war chest. If Republicans cannot bury the hatchet and unite around the eventual nominee, Adler may well roll to victory in a district that gave George Bush a mere 51% in 2004.

Candidates

Chris Myers – Republican – Lockheed Martin vice president and Medford Councilman
Website

John Adler – Democrat – state Senator
Website

New Jersey (05)

Outlook: Leans Republican


Background

When blind rabbi Dennis Shulman announced his House candidacy in November of last year, it seemed more likely to end up in Reuter’s Oddly Enough than in Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Shulman, however, has turned a surefire GOP win into a competitive race, on the strength of his fundraising and a generally strong campaign.

Shulman began running television ads in the primary phase of the campaign, but strong fundraising has allowed him to keep up the pace. His second-quarter haul of over $270,000 almost matched that of incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett, even though Garrett clearly leads in the category of cash-on-hand.

Why is this race competitive? It is hard to say. Voters don’t seem to dislike Garrett in particular, as evidenced by an early Shulman poll showed that 31 percent of voters would vote to re-elect Garrett and just 19 percent favored definitely replacing him. Instead it seems Garrett is the victim of the environment, both anti-incumbent and anti-GOP, and the candidate, a strong fundraiser with a compelling narrative. While Garrett has the definite advantage in this district which gave Bush a 14 percent margin of victory in 2004, he’ll still have to spend the last few months of the campaign sweating what should have been an easy victory.

Candidates

Scott Garrett (I) – Republican – current congressman
Website

Dennis Shulman – Democrat – rabbi and psychologist
Website

New Jersey (07) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


July 30, 2008 Update:

Like Chris Myers (NJ-03) to the south, Republican Leonard Lance is facing a serious financial shortfall against Democrat Linda Stender in this open seat race. Lance emerges from an expensive primary with only $80K cash on hand to Stender’s $1.2 million warchest. However, unlike New Jersey’s other contest, Republican hopes of holding the seat are much brighter. Here, the GOP seems to have the advantage in candidate quality. Internal Republican polling shows Lance with a seven point lead and Stender with an upside-down (20/29) favorability rating. Perhaps district voters still remember Representative Mike Ferguson’s 2006 mantra of “Linda Stender, big spender,” but it remains to be seen whether Stender can translate her financial advantage into repairing her image… or sullying her opponent’s. Taken as a whole, Republicans still have a shot at the seat, but only if candidate quality trumps cash quantity.

June 4, 2008 Update:

State legislator Linda Stender won the Democratic primary, and will make another bid for the seat she almost won in 2006. Her challenger will be state senator Leonard Lance, who will attempt to hold the seat for the Republicans after the departure of former Rep. Mike Ferguson. Considering how close Stender came two years ago, now that incumbency won’t be a factor we’ll be watching this race very closely, as it’s too close to call right now.


Background

The GOP may be headed for another exhausting primary battle in northern New Jersey after the surprise departure of Representative Mike Ferguson. Like the Jets versus the Giants (who both play in North Jersey), the Republican primary features a pair of local bluebloods—state senator Leonard Lance and GOP Leadership Council executive director Kate Whitman, who is the daughter of former governor Christine Todd Whitman. Joining the two fa
mous last names are businessman Victor Sordillo and a smattering of lesser contenders.

On the Democratic side, assemblywoman Linda Stender is back after coming within 1% of victory last cycle. Stender has a clear path to the nomination and the DCCC’s endorsement, but she may have difficulty competing with the famous last names on the Republican ticket. Regardless, given the financial woes of the NRCC, this seat appears to be a prime, if expensive, opportunity for a Democratic pickup.

Candidates

Leonard Lance – Republican – state senator
Website

Linda Stender – Democrat – state legislator
Website