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NJ gets bluer: Democrats pick up 3 seats, Menendez holds on

November 8, 2018
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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez celebrates his re-election in Hoboken, N.J., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, while Gov. Phil Murphy stands at right. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey rejected the state’s down-and-out Republicans in the midterm elections and turned even more Democratic, sending at least 10, and potentially 11, of its 12 representatives to the next Congress from among the Democrats’ ranks.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez defeated Republican Bob Hugin in Tuesday’s midterm election by 10 percentage points, according to preliminary results. In the northern New Jersey suburbs, Democratic newcomers Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill flipped Republican seats, with Malinowski defeating an incumbent.

In southern New Jersey, longtime state Sen. Jeff Van Drew turned a seat that had been held by Republicans for nearly a quarter-century.

In the still-undecided 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Andy Kim declared victory late Wednesday over Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur.

The Associated Press has not called that race. Kim led by over 2,000 votes in unofficial results, but MacArthur said in a statement that nearly 7,000 votes remained to be counted.

Voters confirmed Democrats’ advantage in a state where registration favored the party by over 900,000.

“It’s huge,” said Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison. “In New Jersey, the blue wave was enough to overcome the strictures of gerrymandering.”

Republican President Donald Trump, whose popularity is meager in New Jersey, appeared to factor into voters’ decisions.

Nearly all New Jersey voters casting midterm election ballots said deciding who controls Congress played a role in their decision, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.

AP VoteCast found most said that Trump was a factor in their vote, while a majority also said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

AP VoteCast surveyed 3,821 voters and 667 nonvoters in New Jersey; the survey was conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Menendez’s win over Hugin, the former CEO of Celgene, came despite millions of dollars in negative advertising financed by Hugin’s deep pockets.

AP VoteCast found women favored Menendez by 3 to 5, enough to overcome a split of the vote among men. Black voters were another key, giving Menendez enough of their support to offset his Hugin’s slight advantage among white voters.

Suburban voters who made up a majority of New Jersey’s voters also gave Menendez an edge.

Menendez also fended off Hugin with a huge push from Democrats Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker, a potential 2020 presidential nominee. Booker had told voters Monday that if they trusted him, then they should back Menendez.

A central issue in the race was Menendez’s tossed-out federal corruption case, which Hugin capitalized on, casting the incumbent as corrupt. Menendez always denied wrongdoing and instead focused on his record, particularly as a co-author of the Affordable Care Act.

In House races, Malinowski, a former state department official under President Barack Obama, defeated five-term GOP Rep. Leonard Lance in the 7th District. Malinowski argued that despite Lance casting himself as a moderate, he failed to stop his Republican colleagues from enacting the 2017 tax overhaul.

Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in 2016 over Trump.

Sherrill, a Navy veteran and onetime federal prosecutor, won in the 11th District over Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber. The seat was open because Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring after 12 terms.

Sherrill focused on rolling back the 2017 federal tax overhaul’s cap on state and local tax deductions and stressed her support for health care for everyone.

Van Drew won in the 2nd District over Trump ally Seth Grossman, after Rep. Frank LoBiondo retired. Van Drew had said he would work hard to bring people together in a district Trump carried.

In the 3rd District, Kim promised before a raucous crowd at his headquarters in Mount Laurel that he would “serve with honor and integrity” and said he would “restore civility” to public office.

MacArthur is seeking his third term and was running neck-and-neck against Kim, a former national security aide to Obama. The incumbent said the race was “hard fought” and he’s ready to see it end, but not before uncounted ballots are tallied.

Election officials earlier Wednesday had said that they anticipated provisional ballots, but that they couldn’t specify how many.

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The story has been updated to correct that Sherrill won in the 11th District, not the 12th.

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