NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — New Jersey’s primary is June 7, and it’s shaping up to be an important election for Garden State residents. The potential impact of the Congressional makeup could dictate everything from gun legislation to property taxes.
The upcoming elections in New Jersey are “critical” for Democrats who “cannot afford to lose” incumbents in the House of Representatives, political scientist and Farleigh Dickinson University professor Dan Cassino said. Whoever wins their party’s support in the primaries will go on to faceoff against challengers from other parties in the Nov. 8 general election.
“New Jersey’s votes typically don’t matter very much, but in this case, they’re going to matter a lot,” Cassino said. “It’s going to be a very, very close race for the House of Representatives [and] New Jersey is critical for that.”
Both Cassino and his colleague, School of Public and Global Affairs Director Peter Woolley, anticipate Rep. Tom Malinowski will face a competitive Republican challenger. Cassino noted Malinowski “won in a squeaker” during the last election cycle in a district that “probably should be a Republican district.”
“I think everybody will be on the edge of their chairs this time around,” Woolley said.
Rep. Andy Kim — who “barely won in 2020” — could also be in trouble, Cassino said.
So, what could happen if Republicans reclaim power in both the House of Representatives and the Senate? Woolley said there are three things people will “want to think about if [they see themselves] as a New Jersey voter”: Criticisms of the Biden administration, budgeting and a power shift in House committees.
“If there’s a Republican House, then there is no doubt in my mind that they will hunt high and low for an opportunity to bring impeachment charges,” he said, noting a Republican house could “kill a number of investigations” currently happening and open up new investigations, something that will lead to “much more powerful” criticisms of President Joe Biden.
On the budgeting end, residents in Democrat-led states like New Jersey can be “pretty confident” projects will be funded all the way through at the moment, Woolley said. But with Republican control in both the House and Senate, “Republican priorities are going to get funded before Democratic priorities.”
One project Cassino said could see funding pulled is the Gateway Tunnel Project. Every member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation voted for the bill that allocates an estimated $12.3 billion to the Garden State, but Cassino said Republicans could prove to “have no interest in pursuing” the funding through the completion of the project.
An overlooked, but very important, effect of the House of Representatives’ makeup is the power shift within House committees, Woolley said.
“Most of what you get to do…is a function of what committee you’re on, and whether you are in the majority or the minority,” he said. “So, if the Republicans win enough seats around the country, and win the majority in the House, that means they’re going to become the majority on every single committee.”
Woolley added New Jersey voters should consider the impact on their preferred party’s power because having a House majority “makes a big difference to what legislation you can advance.”
Although he is no longer president, both Cassino and Woolley said Donald Trump continues to loom large over party decisions. In South Jersey specifically — where the state “starts to become very Republican very quickly,” according to Cassino — voters care a lot about the former president and his endorsements.
Woolley said Trump’s impact is something Republican voters — and the party as a whole — will have to reckon with in upcoming elections. He said some voters may find it important to support a candidate who has endorsements from Trump allies, such as 4th District candidate Mike Crispi.
“If you’re a Republican, you want to think about whether you want to switch horses from somebody who votes with Trump most of the time, to somebody who might vote with Trump all the time,” Woolley said.
Ultimately, Cassino said voting in primaries is especially important for voters who want to test the Democratic and Republican “party machines” that have been trying to force certain candidates in — despite the wishes of voters.
“If voters don’t like the machines…this is their chance to break their machines,” he said. “If the machines can’t get their preferred candidates elected, those machines cease to exist.”