In New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional district, controversies hound both the long-term incumbent and his upstart challenger. Incumbent Chris Smith (R) is running for his 20th term against Democrat Josh Welle.
According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Smith has a 92.7 percent chance of winning.
Unlike fellow senior Congressional Republicans Rodney Frelinghuysen and Frank LoBiondo, Smith has not backed down in the face of a challenge.
Smith is the Dean of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, having been in office the longest amongst its members. While many have tried to unseat him, Smith has been re-elected easily every time.
However his time in Congress has been marred by the fact that there is a longtime dispute whether Smith still lives in New Jersey or whether he is really a resident of Washington, DC.
Smith also had some controversy recently when it seemed he suggested at a high school that some adopted babies would have been better off had their LGBT parents not adopted them. He claims these remarks were taken out of context and released the audiotape of the forum in which the remarks took place where he did not directly say that.
Welle is not immune to controversy either. Records show Welle himself voted in Northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C. last year. And while he was raised in the district, he only moved back to run for Congress very recently.
Furthermore, Welle owes back taxes for he a software business he established between $1,300 and $130,000 and misreported its dissolution date. He claims this was due to a miscommunication.
However, Welle has outraised Smith at $1.3 million, almost triple of Smith’s previous total.
He is a first-time candidate for office who left New Jersey initially to attend the Naval Academy subsequently served in the Navy where he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Welle won a vigorously contested primary against Jim Keady, a noted Berniecrat.
Smith’s record in Congress is ideologically mixed. He authored Megan’s Law which requires information regarding sex offenders to be made public. He also voted to “protect women from sex trafficking and defend themselves against sexual harassment in the Capitol, and he has broken rank with his party to support children’s healthcare, protect DACA dreamers, and block the separation of undocumented children from their families”.
Furthermore, Smith is notable for his pro-labor record. Recently he voted against repealing health and safety laws. He is considered one of the most pro-labor Republican Members of Congress. In return the labor unions have donated $100,000 to his campaign this year.
However, Smith has said publicly he is in favoring of the United States of building a wall on its border with Mexico while Welle said it was “against our American values”.
Smith was endorsed by the Asbury Park Press (APP) which commended his civility and chided Welle’s business failure. Welle’s campaign subsequently released a press release criticizing the APP for endorsing Smith despite his stance against gay marriage. He also defended his failed software company and contrasted his entrepreneurialism with Smith having been in Congress since he was 27.
Like other New Jersey House Republicans, he voted against the plan last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And he has said he was in favor decriminalization of marijuana which would reduce the penalty for its possession but not legalize it.
The district is not favorable to a challenger. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats and it went for Trump by 54 percent and last voted for a Democratic president in 2000.
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