Congressional Map wins the day

In the end, the map won.

New Jersey will enter the new year with an evenly divided Congressional caucus as six Democrats and six Republicans won re-election to the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

All races but one ended with landslide, double-digit victories for the victor and the only “competitive” race in the state – the 3rd District where incumbent Republican Jon Runyan was challenged by Democrat Shelley Adler – saw the incumbent win by eight points.

Even massive voter confusion meant little to New Jersey’s electoral map.

The map was the product of last year’s version of congressional musical chairs – the decennial redrawing of the lines that this time around meant one congressman lost his seat.

The unlucky winner of the lottery was U.S Rep. Steve Rothman who left the redistricting process with a Sophie’s choice of sorts – challenge conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett in the newly redrawn and Republican leaning 5th District, or take on his friend, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell. 

In the end, Rothman chose his political future over his friendship, preferring the chance to win in the newly redrawn 9th and cruise to victory for the next 10 years over a potential loss in the 5th or almost as daunting, the prospect of an expensive dog fight every two years to hold the seat should he win it.

The primary was closely watched in the state and ended with a shellacking of Rothman by his friend.

The remaining fallout from the map was less bloody but equally stark.  Tuesday’s margins of victory in the remaining 12 districts ranged from the eight-point spread in District 3 to 76 points in District 10, where Donald Payne kept the seat vacated by the death of his father.

In between were a host of landslides including a 39-point spread for U.S. Rep. Rush Holt in District 12, a 49-point spread for Pascrell over Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the 9th, a 59-point victory for U.S. Rep. Albio Sires in the 8th District, a 31 percent margin for U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone in District 6, a 38-point spread for U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews and a 29-point win for U.S. Rep. Chris Smith in District 4.

The victory for Republicans lay in convincing 13th member John Farmer Jr. that the delegation should be evenly split.  The victory for all incumbents lay in convincing Farmer they deserved to retain their jobs.

In the end the margins in this race were larger in nearly every district than the one separating the candidates in 2010.  

The delegation will head to Washington to join a Republican-controlled Congress and one or two – Smith and Garrett – may find themselves in chairmanships of powerful committees.

Others, like Runyan, will find themselves in more secure positions, more ensconced after convincing wins.  One, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, will face his freshman term, but will do so from a seat made famous by his father.

The next chance to redraw the map – and likely the next chance for a challenger to take a seat – won’t come for another 10 years.

"It’s not a political environment that’s particularly warm for incumbents, but it looks like Booker has little to be worried about as the campaign season draws to a close."
—Krista Jenkins, poll director and professor of political science, FDU.