When John Adler won New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District in 2008, it was the first time a Democrat had done so in over a century.
In 2010, political newcomer Jon Runyan won the seat back for Republicans.
This year, another Democrat named Adler is trying to oust Runyan.
Republican Runyan is seeking re-election to his second term in Congress. The former Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle was victorious in his first bid for political office when he defeated freshman Democrat John Adler in 2010.
Adler won the seat two years earlier, helped by a large Democratic turnout and the retirement of Rep. Jim Saxton, a Republican who represented the district for more than two decades.
Four months after his loss to Runyan, Adler died from complications of an infection after heart surgery.
His widow, Shelley Adler, a lawyer and former Cherry Hill councilwoman, is now challenging Runyan for the congressional seat that represents much of Ocean and Burlington counties.
Economy and Medicare
While there are many issues in the campaign, the economy is driving the discussion.
Runyan says dealing with the fiscal crisis is a priority.
“A big part of this is really government stepping aide and stop over-regulating and stop taxing people and allow the private sector to jump start this economy and get people back to work and it will all move a lot better,” he said.
Shelley Adler says Medicare needs protection from budget cuts and wants tax breaks for the middle class.
“I’m on the side of middle-class families and seniors and small businesses and his interests have really been in protecting the top millionaires and billionaires and top corporations that ship American jobs overseas and large oil companies,” she said.
New district boundaries
The boundaries of New Jersey’s congressional districts were redrawn last year. Cherry Hill was taken out of the 3rd District and Brick Township was put into it.
Monmouth University political analyst Patrick Murray says that will play a big part in the election.
“It really is a major shift here because Cherry Hill, which is considered a Democratic town, did not provide a huge majority for Democrats. It provided a majority but not a huge one,” said Murray. “Whereas, Brick provides a huge majority for Republicans. So you’re really swapping out a small Democratic advantage for a large Republican advantage.”
Because Adler lives in Cherry Hill, she can’t even vote for herself in the redrawn district. She does not expect redistricting will have a big effect.
“Well, it’s still very much the same 50/50 swing district,” said Adler. “So I think that doesn’t change the demographics in the sense that it is still a swing district.”
Runyan says adding Brick to the district does make a difference.
“It’s new to both of us, so I haven’t introduced myself to 130,000 new voters and that is the big challenge,” he said.
It’s unclear how the aftermath from Hurricane Sandy will affect the race. The shore towns in the district, such as Brick, are more focused now on recovery than a campaign.
The amount of money raised indicates both parties believe the seat is winnable.
Adler has raised nearly a million dollars. Runyan has brought in almost $2 million, making it one of the most expensive congressional races in New Jersey this year.