The Fate of the Fifth District on Nov. 6


Staff Writer

November 2, 2018


HACKENSACK – Incumbent Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from the fifth district of New Jersey, will be facing voters for re-election for Congress against Republican challenger John McCann on the congressional ballot for the Nov. 6 midterm election. Gottheimer will be one of seven Democrats in the state up for re-election.

The fifth district, a Republican-leaning district,  covers half of Bergen County, including Hackensack and part of Teaneck, Passaic County, Sussex County, and Warren County. The congressional seat, which is up for election once every two years, had previously been taken by Republican Scott Garrett.

However, he lost his seat to freshman representative Gottheimer back in 2016. Now that Gottheimer will be on the ballot for the second time in his political career, there is a question that looms over New Jersey: Can a Democrat once again prevail in a Republican-leaning district, or can this be the one race in New Jersey that Republicans can flip?

Democrats have a slight edge over voter registrations in the district with 153,803 Democratic voters to 150,788 Republican voters, as per NJ Board of Elections. Unaffiliated  voters top both parties with 214,243. Registration numbers are a good indication for telling which party has an edge when it comes to identification, not when it comes to voting.  Not everyone votes in the same party that they identify with and not everyone who is registered actually turns out to vote.

The fifth district is a classic rural-suburban divide in the political atmosphere in America where Republicans have a strong edge in the rural part of the district, and Democrats edge out in the populous part of the county.

For either Gottheimer or McCann to win,  they must make sure their bases turn out strong in the respective county where they are likely to win. Despite the district leaning towards the Republicans in terms of the Republican to Democrat ratio (NJ-5 is 3.7 more Republican than the nation, as reported by FiveThirtyEight), either candidate in this district has a chance.

While all of the political experts rate this seat as likely or safely Democratic, there are factors which remain to be seen that could tilt the race over to McCann’s hand in Nov. Are the people who voted for Gottheimer in 2016 likely to vote a different way or stay home on Nov. 6? Have disaffected Republicans returned to their base in a highly polarized climate? What will the turnout be on both sides? These questions are tough to answer which makes it harder to accurately predict races like NJ-5.

Another factor that goes along with turnout is straight ticket voting. This is when a voter votes for one party down the ballot. It has become more common to see in recent years, but it is not guaranteed to happen. A voter, who asked to remain anonymous, from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey already voted through the mail-in-ballot process. He was not shy in announcing his choice.

“I supported Hugin, Republicans all the way,” he said (Hugin is the Republican nominee for Senator).

Another voter, Jennifer Kaplinger from Hillsdale, New Jersey is very passionate about the election process.

“I’ve been very aware… I’ve always voted,” Kaplinger said, “I’m voting straight Democratic, I’m doing Gottheimer.”

John from Saddle River, who did not reveal his last name, has heard of both Gottheimer and McCann, but remains undecided.

Straight ticket voting works depending on turnout of the electorate. Increase of Republican turnout would benefit their chances of winning back the seat while an increase of Democratic turnout would better their chances of keeping the seat this midterm. Basically, NJ-5 depends on the turnout of the voters.