As insurgent Democrats made headway in a conservative stronghold across multiple levels of government, NJ-4’s impending Congressional race is more than just a referendum on federal representation. This is the result of a unique set of circumstances implicit to our volatile political climate and slowly maturing electorate.
NJ-4’s tradewinds are blowing in extreme polars, and the seemingly immovable center-right block representing the mass of NJ-4 voters is reorganizing to meet the political definitions of the 2020s. Whatever the outcome will be, a political sentiment will be established.
The battle for the soul of NJ-4 voters is brewing in the venue of FEC filings. Unprecedented dollars from myriad sources which include grassroots, corporate, and special interests are pouring into the district. It’s a tight battle between Democrat hopefuls and the 39-year-incumbent, Republican Chris Smith, who has $416,710 tucked away in his coffers.
Leading the efforts among the Democrats is Stephanie Schmid, who continued her prolific fundraising efforts with $101,000 in Q4 of 2019 capping off an immense start to her campaign and matching her Q3 raise of $100,000.
These funds were raised across 321 unique donors while not accepting donations from either fossil fuel or corporate political action committees, according to a press release from Stephanie’s campaign via Kristen Foca.
In the press release, Stephanie Schmid is quoted as saying:
I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who’s donated, who’s volunteered, and who is spreading our message. We need a strong grassroots campaign to unseat a 39-year incumbent and everyone who is willing to pitch in is making an impact. Our growing number of donors shows that our message is resonating with people in NJ-04 and around the country. I’m excited to continue to have important discussions with members of our community and build on this momentum that will carry us over the finish line in November 2020.
The totality of Schmid’s fundraising during these two quarters, in which she raised a cumulative total of $201,890, is unprecedented for New Jersey’s Fourth District. Juxtaposed to either Josh Welle’s $129,917 (who was 2018’s Democtratic candidate) or Jim Keady’s $99,177 (then front runner heading into the 2018 election year) it’s easy to quantify Schmid’s unique congressional genesis.
This impressive display inspires confidence not only in Schmid’s abilities, but for the viability she has against incumbent Christ Smith in a general election.
Fellow contender Jim Keady raised $22,703 in 2019’s Q4 with an average contribution of $43 across 527 donations from 30 different towns. A short notice effort as Keady announced his candidacy later than his fellow Congressional hopefuls following the New Jersey state elections on November 13th, the response does illustrate both the name brand recognition and infrastructure that Keady still maintains.
When speaking with Keady on the subject he is quick to extol the virtues of his grassroots direction:
The fundraising we have accomplished in the few weeks since our campaign launched shows the strength of our grassroots movement. We are running a campaign that is of, by, and for the middle class, the working class, and the poor. We did this without having one private fundraising event, with minimal call time, and with a focus on getting as many people to donate as possible, even if it meant them just giving $1. Ours is a campaign of the people, not the donor class.
This is how we will beat a 40-year incumbent, by getting as many people involved as possible with a grassroots movement that is centered on the issues that will have a real impact on the lives of working families here in CD4, around NJ, and across the United States. If people are part of something that they believe in and know will change their lives, they will get out to vote for a Democrat in numbers we have not seen here in NJ04 in four decades. This is what we are building with the Keady 2020 campaign. This is how we win.
Christine Conforti totaled $3,137 across 41 “community investors” as Conforti’s campaign chooses to call them while bestowing an honorary designation of co-creators of a grassroots campaign on donors. Both the total raised and the unique appellation applied to contributors reflect Conforti’s community focus and heavily inclusive approach. Idiosyncratic in form, Conforti has seen a surge in support following Ocean’s roundtable debate.
Occupying an adjacent position from the grassroots-style is Hassan Shehadeh — who did not participate in any fundraising efforts until now. Possessing an even $1,000 in funds according to FEC filings, when I inquired about his fundraising Hassan offered a sharp rebuke in “I am against this principle of the more money you raise the better candidate you are.”
Regardless of candidate preference, these dollars illustrate the growing support the Democratic party has enjoyed over the past few years in NJ-4. First, this is attributable to a resurgent Monmouth County Democratic apparatus emphasized through victories for state office by now sitting Senator Vin Gopal alongside his colleagues Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling. It is also likely the result of shifting political ideologies originating at the federal level.
Look no further than the paltry $150,384.49 raised by 2016’s NJ-4 Democratic nominee Lorna Phillipson to grasp the shift in both attention the race has received as well as the perceived viability to flip the district. Giving hope to all candidates that dollars are waiting for whoever comes out victorious.
There are forces curtailing the optimism over the growing success of the Democratic party within NJ-4 and the current candidates fundraising efforts. Looming are the lofty anticipated requisite funds needed to flip an R+8 Cook PVI district in which the candidate has to buy air time in both the pricey New York and Philadelphia media market as well as matching incumbent Chris Smith’s ability to raise money — a skill he has curated for over 20 terms.
The table below demonstrates totals raised by a sampling of four New Jersey Congressional candidates in 2018, three of which were victorious, which reads like a “which one of these is not like the other” SAT question, removing any doubt in which will continue to play a large factor in candidates success heading into the 2020 election. Estimates remain between four to seven million needed to flip NJ-4.
Total Funds Raised in 2018 Election
Sourced from FEC Filings between Jan. 1, 2017 through Nov. 6, 2018 Total Donation Receipts
- Josh Welle (NJ-4’s 2018 candidate): $1,386,513.23
- Andy Kim (Flipped NJ-3): $8,898,443.13
- Tom Malinowski (Flipped NJ-7): $9,724,081.07
- Mikie Sherrill (Flipped NJ-11): $10,837,382.96
Even though having dollars function as representation is antithetical to our democratic principles, this is the electoral battlefield we fight in. The need for a candidate to be a qualified fundraiser is non-negotiable and a factor for great consideration of support, especially as NJ-4 incumbent Chris Smith has raised $609,030.18 between Nov. 7, 2018 and Sep 30, 2019 while maintaining $416,710 cash on hand as per FEC Filings.
At the time of publishing, David Applefield, current NJ-4 candidate, could not be reached for comment. The most current FEC Filings demonstrate that current through Sep. 30, 2019 his campaign has accrued $120,000 in loans made by the candidate and $14,494 raised across 18 donations.