Third and Fourth District See Changes In New Map
Brick Township’s move from the Fourth to the Third Congressional District is just one of the biggest moves following the recent bipartisan redrawing of the state’s congressional map.
Third District Congressman Jon Runyan will most notably be gaining Brick into his constituency while losing towns like Cherry Hill, Long Beach Island, Little Egg Harbor, and half of Stafford Township. Cherry Hill’s absence in the upcoming 2012 election could prove the most useful to Runyan, who loses one of the area’s prominently Democratic municipalities and picks up a traditionally republican voting one.
Dr. Brigid Calahan Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University says that for the more recently elected Runyan, the new district is a boon for re-election. “By removing this [Cherry Hill] from his district what we’ve seen is that it strengthens his position it gives him a bit more of an edge in terms of the composition of his district.”
Runyan however has said though Brick’s voting history might swing in his favor, it doesn’t exclude him from putting forth the due diligence when it comes to winning the vote of the town’s residents.
“I’m going to have to go out and get the grass roots campaigning and let the people know who I am and what I’m about and that I’m here to work with them.”
One of the other major changes in the “shore” area of the state was in the Fourth District which has been represented by Republican Chris Smith since 1980, and of that time Brick Township was under his purview since 1992.
Though Smith will lose Brick, he will be gaining Point Pleasant Borough, Point Pleasant Beach, Manchester, Lakehurst, Plumstead, as well as several towns in Monmouth County which previously were in Democrat Frank Pallone’s district.
The loss of the long time Republican Brick and the addition of several Democratic areas shouldn’t give any challenge to Smith. Harrison notes that “His [Chris Smith's] district becomes slightly more Democratic, perhaps a bit more competitive, but what we know about Congressman Smith is that he is quite entrenched, he never sees any real challenge to his reelection campaign. ” adding that the new it “doesn’t really offer any risks for him.”
One of the reasons Harrison attributes Smith’s continues successes in his long seated Fourth District is based off the momentum incumbency provides candidates. Harrison says even if many more Democratic areas were added to Smith’s district, he would still be a projected winner.
“Even in a very competitive district where you have a 50/50 split incumbency advantage is almost an insurmountable obstacle.”
The current redistricting process is the product of the 2010 census map, which forced New Jersey to give up one congressional district. The Garden State’s delegation will drop from seven House members to six next year.
While Brick Township’s movement was put into the focus of the redistricting, Harrison predicts that for the town’s residents things won’t be substantially different.
“The reality is the people in Brick won’t see a whole lot of change in terms of the kind of services they are getting from their member of Congress. Congressman Smith and Congressman Runyan are essentially the same ideologically. They are amongst the more conservative though not most conservative of New Jersey’s republicans.”
Jon Runyan agrees that as Republicans in New Jersey he and Chris Smith share many similar values, he does add that what seperates them is the individual causes which they have championed throughout the years.
He notes that Smith is a “champion of human rights however I I have taken on making sure Barnegat Bay, the fisherman, and the military base and our veterans are taken care of.”
Adding, “it’s just a little section of what we do in Washington that we champion.”