New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District has long been reliably Republican. Voters in its middle-class suburbs and more affluent communities, in the hills of North Jersey, have sent Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen to the House every two years since 1994.
This year, though, things may finally change, since Mr. Frelinghuysen has said he will not seek re-election. On June 5, voters in the district will cast primary ballots for what is likely to be its first truly competitive race in years.
The district, moderate enough to give hope to good candidates of either party, even though it was gerrymandered to be more Republican, is one of two in the state that Democrats hope to flip in November’s midterms.
Thanks largely to antipathy toward President Trump, energy in the district this year is on the Democratic side, with several strong candidates vying to replace Mr. Frelinghuysen. Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, is considered the heavy favorite, and has the backing of local party leaders and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tamara Harris, a social worker with a background in finance, is another impressive candidate with substantial support. She was also endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. Mitchell Cobert, a former assistant United States attorney, is also a serious candidate. Mark Washburne and Alison Heslin are also in the race on the Democratic side.
Several Republican candidates are competing for their party’s nomination. Among Republicans, State Assemblyman Jay Webber has a fund-raising advantage over Antony Ghee, an investment banker and major in the Army Reserve who also has support. And one Libertarian candidate is also making a bid for the seat.
While we have made no judgments about who would be the better candidate in the November general election, the most competitive primary race is among Democrats.
Voters will find little significant policy differences between Ms. Sherrill and Ms. Harris, who are the leading candidates and hold traditional liberal views, including support for stricter gun control measures and Roe v. Wade.
The primary race has been marked by insinuations from some of Ms. Harris’s backers that local and national Democratic Party leaders rejected her in favor of Ms. Sherrill because Ms. Harris is African-American. We suspect it is Ms. Sherrill’s military background and strong showing early in the race, drumming up support for months while Mr. Frelinghuysen was still expected to run, that made her so attractive to party leaders. But leaders of both parties should do far more to recruit and support black and Latino candidates, and pursue black and Latino votes with vigor. Democrats rely heavily on African-American voters, and even more so on black women, yet have done far too little to earn their votes.
In New Jersey, it is clear that Ms. Harris and Ms. Sherrill are both capable of serving their constituents well. But we believe Ms. Sherrill is the strongest candidate, and endorse her with confidence.
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