New Jersey's 3rd: Republicans on the Defensive
The news out of New Jersey last week wasn't good for Republicans. Rep. Jim Saxton (R) was retiring, leaving behind a swing district in an area of the country that has grown increasingly inhospitable to Republicans.
While national Republicans did their best to put a brave face on their chances, New Jersey's 3rd joins Arizona's 1st, Illinols' 11th, Minnesota's 3rd, New Mexico's 1st, Ohio's 15th and Ohio's 16th as major pickup targets for Democrats next November.
Here's our sketch of the district:
Geography: The Fix has driven all over New Jersey (the perils of being married to a field hockey coach) and Saxton's 3rd district includes some of the most beautiful territory in the Garden State. Located in south-central New Jersey, the district includes the city of Cherry Hill and large swaths of suburban dwellers who work in Philadelphia.
Electoral Results: Saxton has held the seat since 1984 with Democrats making an occasional run at him. The last serious race Saxton faced was in 2000 when Democrats recruited then-Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin (D) as their candidate. Bass Levin was an erratic candidate and Saxton was able to co-opt her support with a number of leading Democratic groups and eventually won with a comfortable 57 percent to 41 percent margin. Saxton won easily in 2002, 2004 and 2006. The ease of Saxton's re-election margins belies the competitive nature of the district; while Bush won it narrowly (51 percent) in 2004, he lost it by 10 points to then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
Candidates: State Sen. John Adler (D) was recruited into the race by national Democrats to take on Saxton. With the incumbent now out of the race, Adler is likely to be the party's choice. He raised $229,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30, a total that includes a $190,000 transfer from his state Senate account. Adler was elected to the state Senate in 1991 and spent seven years in the 1990s as assistant minority leader. For Republicans, the key is to find a candidate with a base in Burlington County -- the swing area of the district. Two names are mentioned: state Sen. Diane Allen and Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stansfield. Allen ran for the Senate in 2002, finishing second to wealthy businessman Doug Forrester in the Republican primary.
Outlook: This is a very tough hold for Republicans -- especially in a presidential year. Republicans note that they made gains in Burlington County in last week's state elections including winning an open state Senate seat. Combine the district's Democratic tendencies, the huge cost of television advertising and the huge financial lead national Democrats hold over their Republican counterparts, however, and this seat looks ripe for the taking.
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