A fan of the Tea Party, Scott Garrett has managed to hang on for more than a decade in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional district, quite the achievement given his far-right stances on social issues. That might change in a few days, though, as the incumbent faces the fight of his life from Josh Gottheimer, a Jewish former speechwriter for Bill Clinton.
The swing district, which covers the suburbs and rural hamlets of the northernmost stretches of the state, has been particularly tough for Garrett, as he faces an onslaught of negative press from a well-financed, moderate opponent over his stances on gay rights and links to a local far-right extremist group.
After a July report in Politico that Garrett had refused to contribute to a national Republican campaign fund because it funded gay candidates, the congressman dealt with charges of homophobia and saw himself cut off from finance industry money, a key source of cash as he is the chairman of the powerful Capital Markets subcommittee in the House.
In a telephone interview with The New York Times, Garrett denied those allegations, calling them “ridiculous.”
“I support anyone’s right to run for public office,” he told the newspaper. “I support my fellow Republican candidates.”
But that’s not the sum of his problems — he was also bedeviled by reports in October that he had hosted a fundraiser with a New Jersey chapter of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group of former law enforcement and military officers. The group is considered a domestic terrorist threat by New Jersey’s state government.
“What I need from you is your blood, sweat and tears,” Garrett supposedly told the group, according to a report from Bloomberg News.
Gottheimer, meanwhile, has fashioned himself as a socially liberal, fiscally conservative opponent, ready to get to Washington, D.C. and break out of the partisan mold there.
“The Tea Party extremism does not reflect the values of our district,” Gottheimer told The Times. “If you want to get things done we’ve got to get rid of the obstructionists.”
While the House doesn’t seem likely to flip from Republican to Democratic control in this cycle, Democrats have invested heavily in a few dozen House races seen as the most competitive.
Going to Microsoft after his time in the Clinton administration, he has outraised his foe two-to=one — $4 million to $2 million, roughly — thanks to the largesse of the tech and corporate worlds. He has even garnered the endorsement of prominent Republican donor Meg Whitman, the former head of Hewlett Packard.
No one knows who will win on Election Day, and the Cook Political Report has currently described the contest as a tossup. Stay tuned.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.