U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur said Wednesday evening he called Andy Kim to congratulate him on his victory in the South Jersey race for Congress, acknowledging that “enough provisional ballots have been counted” to show that the Democrat had won.
The Republican’s concession caps off a week of uncertainty around the 3rd Congressional District, where close vote totals left many wondering whether MacArthur had held onto his seat or lost it.
Kim declared victory a day after Election Day and was eventually proven right, but MacArthur held out for nearly a week, refusing to admit defeat until more of the vote-by-mail and provisional ballots had been counted.
“My wife, Debbie, and I have been truly blessed in life, and our commitment to helping others has never been defined by politics or elected office,” MacArthur said, in a statement. “I am also a firm believer that good can come out of life’s disappointments, and I look forward to what the future holds for us.”
Kim did not wait for the results to come into clearer shape before starting work. The political newcomer spent Wednesday in Washington, D.C., with other newly-elected representatives learning the ropes of his new job.
“I’m ready to get to work serving my home district and represent #NJ03 with integrity and civility in Washington,” he wrote on Twitter.
Kim rode a statewide blue wave into office last week alongside three other Democrats who flipped Garden State House seats from red to blue.
New Jersey’s congressional delegation, which this year included seven Democrats and five Republicans, will next year boast a whopping 11 Democrats and just a single Republican, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith.
“This is basically an election that revolved around the perception on the part of New Jerseyans of President Trump,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University.
Baker said Trump loomed larger than any single policy issue at polls across New Jersey last week.
In a state where Trump’s poll numbers have fallen since 2016, that represented a struggle for Republicans running for Congress.
“Among not just Democrats but independents as well, I think, the feeling was that a vote for any Republican office holder was a vote for President Trump,” Baker said. “They just did not want to send that message.”
Although MacArthur characterized himself as a moderate, many people considered him a close ally of Trump.
The Republican from Toms River was the only New Jersey representative to vote in favor of the GOP tax plan, which hit high-tax states including New Jersey especially hard.
MacArthur also gained notoriety for writing a controversial amendment to the Republican bill aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act, an effort that ultimately failed.
Ann Vardeman, a program director with New Jersey Citizen Action, said 3rd Congressional District voters soured on MacArthur after he targeted the ACA, also called Obamacare.
“When they found out that it was their congressman who endangered pre-existing conditions protections for people across the country, who voted to take health care away from thousands of his own constituents and millions of Americans, they were horrified,” Vardeman said.
But clearly many people had hoped MacArthur would get a third term in office. Nearly half of the ballots cast in the race were for the Republican.
Bob Young, a Republican voter from Brick and a military veteran, has supported MacArthur’s advocacy for the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, one of the state’s largest employers.
“My concern … is going to be national defense and the military,” Young said. “MacArthur was a supporter of [the base]. And I don’t want to see that cut.”
Although Kim has declared victory, and MacArthur has conceded, the election results remain unofficial.
Both counties in the 3rd Congressional District — Burlington and Ocean — continue to count provisional ballots. Officials said they hoped to have a finally tally by the end of the week.