Dozens of volunteers were milling around a house at the end of a residential street in Brick, the front yard punctuated by a handful of Andy Kim lawn signs.
Wearing a black suit, the first-time political candidate stepped into the crowded living room and offered a message he hoped his volunteers would spread across the traditionally Republican area.
“This defining moment in time is not just about the here and now,” said Kim, a Democrat. “This is one of those pivotal moments about what course our country’s going to take, and what’s on the ballot is bigger than me versus Tom MacArthur.”
But, of course, both campaigns were focused squarely on Andy Kim versus Tom MacArthur as the hours counted down to Tuesday’s midterm election.
The battle in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across Burlington and Ocean Counties, has been a close race with national implications for control of the House of Representatives. Both candidates have raised and spent millions of dollars.
Across town, at a house party where local Republicans ate pizza and drank beer, MacArthur defended his record in Congress and bashed Kim for running a campaign short on details.
“Andy Kim is running to protest Trump,” MacArthur said. “What is that going to do to bring health care costs down? What is that going to do to make our borders stronger?”
The public polls conducted for this race have shown no clear front-runner.
MacArthur, who is running for his third term in Congress, gained notoriety for authoring an amendment to the failed Republican bill that aimed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He was also the lone vote from the New Jersey delegation in favor of the GOP tax plan, which gave many residents a tax cut and hurt those who pay high state property taxes. The tax deal capped deductions for property and other local taxes at $10,000 and the average property tax bill in New Jersey is more than $8,000.
Kim, is a political newcomer who worked as a national security official under former President Barack Obama.
Kim began his campaign with a video criticizing MacArthur for his support of the plan to end Obamacare, and the Democrat has consistently slammed MacArthur for what he says amounts to limiting access to medical treatment and raising prices on patients.
Health care, among voters from both parties, has become a key issue in this race.
“Even though my health care is paid for by my company, I think that at any moment anyone can lose that sort of security,” said Debbie Chung, a volunteer for Kim’s campaign.
Chung lives in Brooklyn, but grew up in Holmdel, next to the 3rd district.
She said many voters she’s talked to as she canvassed the area are excited about Kim’s campaign. “They’re excited about Andy,” Chung said. “They’re also excited to kick out MacArthur.”
But Brick resident Bob Young said he believes it is the Democrats who will bankrupt the Medicare system, which he relies on, in order to pay for services for undocumented immigrants.
“To turn around and have a political group that’s gonna say, ‘Let’s wipe out everything that you’ve accomplished in your life and give you third-rate health care so we can afford to pay for an illegal alien’s abortion,’” Young said, “it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
A majority of voters in the district cast ballots for Obama twice before flipping in 2016 to throw their support behind President Donald Trump.
Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday in New Jersey.