New Jersey Dems flip 3 GOP seats, one too close to call

Supporters cheer for Tom Malinowski, during his election night party Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Berkeley Heights, N.J. (Noah K. Murray/AP Photo)

Supporters cheer for Tom Malinowski, during his election night party Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Berkeley Heights, N.J. (Noah K. Murray/AP Photo)

Democrats will retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but the national results were not the blue wave some people were hoping for.

Yet New Jersey elections largely went how the Democrats had hoped. Democratic candidates kept or took control of seats in a few key races in the Garden State. Here were the close contests:


WINNER: Sen. Bob Menendez (D)

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez held onto his seat after a bruising campaign with Republican challenger Bob Hugin, a roughly year-long battle in which the two exchanged insults and attack ads about their pasts.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Menendez’s campaign slammed Hugin, the former head of drug company Celgene, for doubling the price of a blockbuster cancer drug. Ads also highlighted controversial comments Hugin made about women and LGBT people when he was a student at Princeton.

A self-funded political newcomer, Hugin used $27 million of his own money to blanket the airwaves with TV commercials reminding voters of the federal corruption trial against Menendez, which ended in a mistrial last fall. Hugin’s campaign also ran ads in recent weeks floating unproven allegations that Menendez engaged with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

In his victory speech, Menendez nodded to his federal corruption trial and promised to win back the support of residents. “For those who did not vote for me or who were disappointed in me, I pledge to spend every day fighting for you and your families and to earn back your respect.”

2nd District

WINNER: Jeff Van Drew (D)

Predictably, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat, bested Republican challenger and attorney Seth Grossman in the 2nd District, the southernmost section of the state. Van Drew outraised and outspent Grossman, who lost GOP support during the campaign after calling diversity “crap.”

Van Drew will take the seat currently occupied by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a moderate Republican who is retiring this year after more than two decades in Congress.

3rd District


The major question mark left at the end of the night was who will represent residents in New Jersey’s 3rd District, which stretches across Burlington and Ocean Counties.

Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur ran for his third term in Congress against Democratic newcomer Andy Kim, a former national security official.

It was MacArthur’s first race since he took the lead on the GOP attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also cast the lone vote from the N.J. delegation in favor of the Republican tax plan.

Both men raised and spent millions of dollars, with MacArthur calling Kim a “liar” and a “paid protester” and Kim reminding residents of MacArthur’s votes in support of President Trump’s agenda.

Late Tuesday night, the race was too close to call. And election officials still had thousands of ballots to count. Expect clarity in the coming days on who wins the 3rd.

7th District

WINNER: Tom Malinowski (D)

Five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, has fallen to a Democratic challenger new to politics.

Tom Malinowski, a former State Department official, beat Lance for the seat in New Jersey’s 7th District.

This was a key district for national Democrats hoping to take back control of the House.

Lance had a long history as a fiscal conservative. He was a staunch critic of some key Trump policies such as the tax overhaul, because it limits how much people can deduct for state and local taxes. That is a big deal in the Garden State which is notorious for high property taxes. Lance’s split with party leadership in some areas was not enough for him to hold on to the seat.

11th District

WINNER: Mikie Sherrill (D)

A former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor has won the seat in New Jersey’s 11th District. Democrat Mikie Sherrill bested state Assemblyman Jay Webber, whose campaign received an early endorsement from President Trump.

This was another big win for Democrats aiming for a blue wave. Sherrill will take the seat of Incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a four-term Republican, who did not seek reelection.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal