As only N.J. Republican in Congress, Chris Smith ready to help Dems on regional issues

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U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican, represents New Jersey's 4th Congressional District. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican, represents New Jersey's 4th Congressional District. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Last year, New Jersey had five Republicans serving in Congress. But a combination of retirements and election upsets resulted in four seats going to Democrats. Central New Jersey’s U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, first elected in 1980, will now be the state’s lone Republican in Washington.

“I do have friends on both sides of the aisle, so I will just adapt to a new and even more challenging situation because, obviously, we lost the majority as well,” Smith said.

On the first day of the new Congress, Smith introduced three bipartisan bills. One is aimed at helping the National Institutes of Health to control Lyme disease – an issue he’s worked on since 1998. He also is working to encourage research on autism and Alzheimer’s disease. The third measure he introduced focuses on curbing anti-Semitism.

And Smith said he’s prepared to help Democrats in the region when it comes to vital Northeast transportation projects, such as the Gateway Tunnel into New York City that could either ease or cause congestion up and down the East Coast.

“I will raise it vigorously from Amtrak to Gateway – all of that is extremely important for our state and for Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s also aligned with the state’s newly elected Democrats on their promises to fully bring back the state and local tax deduction – or SALT – that the GOP tax overhaul capped one year ago.

That cap on SALT deductions drew criticism primarily from New Jersey Republicans, putting them in conflict with their leaders in Congress. The one GOP member who supported it, U.S. Rep Tom MacArthur, was unseated by Democrat Andy Kim in the November election.

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