Outside 5th District, N.J. voters expected to focus mainly on casino ballot question in fall

 Students fill the halls between classes at Boys Latin. The high school has refused to sign its charter agreement in protest. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

Students fill the halls between classes at Boys Latin. The high school has refused to sign its charter agreement in protest. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

All of New Jersey’s incumbents in Congress who faced primary challenges prevailed Tuesday. Political analysts believe only one of the state’s Congressional races will be very competitive in November.

The 5th District contest pits Republican incumbent Scott Garrett against Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley expects Gottheimer will give Garrett a run for his money.

“It will be in New Jersey a Democratic presidential year,” Woolley said. “Gottheimer is going to have the advantage of a strong Democratic turnout in that district and the endorsement of Hillary Clinton and the ability to raise money in tandem with the Clinton campaign.”

Montclair State political science professor Brigid Harrison said that battle is shaping up to be one of most expensive races in the country.

“Gottheimer has raised already over $2 million,” she said. “Scott Garrett walked into this race with about $2.5 million in his campaign war chest, and I believe that neither of them have started raising the kind of money that this race will cost.”

Analysts believe statewide voter interest in November will focus on the ballot question seeking to expand casino gambling to North Jersey.

Groups favoring casino expansion and those opposing it will make an aggressive effort to influence the outcome, said Rider University political science professor Ben Dworkin.

“These folks are all going to be spending millions upon millions of dollars advocating for their position, and, as of now, the polls show the state is evenly split,” Dworkin said. “We’ll see more commercials about this than they will about the presidential race.”

The interest groups are expected to tout potential economic benefits of new casinos or else to warn that increasing competition to Atlantic City might hurt casinos there.

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