Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ2) has represented New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District for two decades. He has hardly had to even break a sweat come Election Day. The district has more registered Democratic voters, but with nearly 200,000 Independent voters who tend to vote more Republican, the district has tilted in his favor over the years.
Patrick Murray, Director of Monmouth University Polling Institute, has bluntly laid out the race in the district:
This is really LoBiondo’s race to lose. (LoBiondo) has the name recognition, he has good standing among his constituents — all those this stack the deck for this particular race.
Despite what looked like a tough race, Bill Hughes, Jr. has focused on proving doubters wrong and beating a strong incumbent. Hughes is the son of the former congressman of the same name. LoBiondo defeated the elder Hughes in 1994 to get elected to Congress.
(LoBiondo) has had a free ride. Come November, the people of South Jersey are going to get a pic of the real Frank LoBiondo, and I don’t not believe he is going to like what he’s going to see.
Before Hughes made his announcement, many Democrats were eyeing state Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) as a likely opponent to face LoBiondo. It was not surprising than that Van Drew would weigh in on the race as he officially endorsed Hughes.
For Van Drew,
Bill Hughes is someone who will not only fight for what is right, but is also committed to the congressional district that he grew up in. I enthusiastically endorse his bid for Congress. His moderate voice and constituent-first approach is much needed in today’s hyper-partisan political arena.
In response, Hughes would exclaim;
I am honored to have received Senator Van Drew’s official endorsement.and look forward to working with him closely on the campaign trail. With his support, and the support of thousands of others across the district, we can start a new conversation in Congress this November and champion legislation that will grow our regional economy and rebuild the American middle-class.
After exchanging words and setting the early tone for the race, the contest settled a bit and the last month saw a drastic swing in polls in the final week as things began looking more positive for Hughes. However that feeling would shift once again in a short time frame as the election has neared.
LoBiondo held a mere 6 point lead over Hughes in an early October Stockton College poll with a 44 to 38 edge. 18% were undecided.
For Sharon Schulman, Chief Executive Officer of External Affairs and Institutional Research,
The poll captures a snapshot in time of an important race for South Jersey. With a month to Election Day on Nov. 4, there are a large number of undecided voters.
LoBiondo’s campaign would respond to the poll by stating,
While we question the exclusion of some candidates on the ballot from the survey, the extent of Bill Hughes’ relentless negative attacks and false statements has demonstrated the type of campaign South Jersey residents will see from our opponent over the next 30 days. Congressman LoBiondo has always run a strong race and this year is no different. Our full media campaign has just begun and we are confident of victory on November 4th
While the Hughes campaign would utter,
These are the most encouraging poll numbers for a Democratic challenger to Congressman LoBiondo in over twenty years. These numbers show that Bill’s message of growing and diversifying South Jersey’s economy, saving and securing Medicare, and fighting for working and middle class families is truly resonating with South Jersey voters.
Hughes would add,
Folks in South Jersey are ready for new, smart, independent representation in Washington and this poll proves it. Voters know Congressman LoBiondo has changed over his 20-years in Congress and has forgotten what matters most to people right here at home. He’s been walking in lockstep with partisan leaders in a broken and irresponsible Congress for too long and has lost the courage it takes to do what’s right for us.
The poll at the same time showed strong signs for the incumbent with a 61-28 edge in favorability among respondents and 52% saying his job performance has been excellent or good and 45% saying his job performance has been fair or poor. Hughes’ numbers are not too far with a 46-21 edge in favorability. Roughly 1 in 4 voters are not familiar with the challenger.
Less than two weeks later another poll would show a different picture. One that increased LoBiondo’s edge over his challenger. A Monmouth University poll showed a 21 point lead for the incumbent by a 56-35 margin. That is roughly around the 18% margin of victory LoBiondo had two years ago even though President Barack Obama carried the district by 8%. LoBiondo has a 34 point edge among men and a 9 point edge among women. His support from his party in this poll and the Stockton poll is stronger than his challenger’s support from his party.
As mentioned, Independent voters have tended to swing the district in LoBiondo’s favor and he has a 64-25 edge over Hughes with those voters.
LoBiondo has held his seat for two decades because of significant crossover appeal in a district that otherwise trends Democratic. To put it plainly, district voters, including many Democrats, simply like Frank LoBiondo.
From jobs and the economy to veterans to healthcare, LoBiondo has edges over Hughes in every important area in the district.
To further cement his lead, another Stockton poll would show a similar edge for LoBiondo as 53% to 34% favored the incumbent with 10% undecided.
As Schulman would explain,
It appears that many of those who were undecided in the earlier poll are breaking for Frank LoBiondo.
LoBiondo’s favorability numbers were even better in this poll by a 68-24 margin. While Hughes’ were roughly the same with a 46-26 margin.
During the final stretch, both candidates have provided some insight to where they stand on different issues as voters finalize their decision.
About his strongest, most recent accomplishments:
When I first got involved with public service at the freeholder level and the state level I was involved a lot in the family business. I know what it’s like to sign the front of a paycheck, I know what it’s like to create jobs. And I know what it’s like to see a downturn. All of these things I’ve had personal experience with and I’ve tried to bring that experience to the congressional district. A lot that doesn’t get talked about is constituent services. We have taken cases for people who were really at the end of their line. We’ve done a lot in the case of veterans that are non-legislative… We have dialysis in the district now that they don’t have to go to Wilmington or Philadelphia… We have a lot more community-based veterans services. I think I’ve demonstrated in a very positive and bipartisan way, finding ways to get a job done.
On working with Democrats:
That’s what the people want. The people come first. If people come first you’ve got to form a partnership. It’s a matter of getting the job done for the people we represent and if we’re going to let the party of the person we have to work with get in the way, I think that’s a terrible mistake.
Challenges in the 2nd Congressional District and how to address them:
Jobs and the economy is always at the top of the list. At the federal level we’ve got to establish a stability and a certainty for small businesses to come in and keep jobs going, to make the investment and time commitment to create new jobs. I’m very proud to be endorsed by organized labor and by chambers of commerce. Whether it’s working to represent men and women or to represent businesses I have done the job and continue to do the job.
Addressing wind energy off the coast of Atlantic City and alternative energy overall in the state:
I’m an ‘all of the above guy.’ If we go back a few years, when the prices of gas really spiked (to) close to $5 per gallon…at that point I made it clear we need solar, we need wind, we need natural gas, we need oil. Of course I’m a huge supporter of our nuclear component as well. I think that’s our future.
What separates him from your challenger:
I can offer the experience and the proven results. I can offer a proven track record. You pick the category and I think I’ve been able to show a very positive result for it. I grew up on a farm in a little town of Rosenhayn. In Washington I read every opinion every day. I spend hours calling people back. I work with people to solve their problems. I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the passion and I’ve got the proven results.
What separates him from Congressman LoBiondo:
About a year ago I was sitting around the table with my wife and we were talking about our future, like many couples do. I noticed there was a change to my business and I said to my wife ‘things are about to get very bad. It’s going to begin to get ugly and turn south very fast.’ I don’t want to say I predicted the magnitude of what’s happening now, but I saw what was happening in Washington was trickling down for us. Our only choices were to roll with the punches or do something. I took a look at what Congressman Lobiondo was doing in Washington and I saw that his words were not matching his actions, and that bothered me. I thought we could do better. We need jobs, we need to change the economy around. Congress is broken and we are feeling it here in South Jersey. Congressman LoBiondo is a nice guy who has grown complacent in his job. Before we laid off 12,000 workers in Atlantic City, we had a 12.6 percent unemployment rate. That warning signs have been there for a long time and he hasn’t done anything.
How to improve Atlantic City:
We have an international airport with a 10,000 foot runway capable of accommodating every airliner every built, and we have 1/10 the landing fees in Newark, yet we have no international flights. In my view — and this goes equally in Salem as it does in Atlantic City — we need to do three things. First, we need to fully maximize our existing resources. Second, we need to diversify the economy and rely less upon gaming. And third, we need to do what every other regional jurisdiction is doing, and that is to reach out to emerging markets. I’m talking about China and India. We used to have 1,000 buses a day coming into Atlantic City. Those people now have casinos of their own. We need to look to replace them.(Other markets) are looking toward the Chinese middle class. We have 300 million people in this country. In China they have 300 million in the middle class. These people have money and they want to be entertained. It’s about creating a team effort. Part of being a congressman is being a leader and drawing upon those teams. It’s what my dad used to do. This is something that has to be done. I will go after trying to build the teams to bring international air service. I will bring infrastructure and bring businesses back to this area.
What are some of the top issues facing the 2nd Congressional District:
First, we have — particularly on the other side of the state — a problem getting adequate healthcare for veterans. They have to travel up to two hours each way to get healthcare and the new bill makes it virtually impossible to get local healthcare. We have to make sure veterans get adequate healthcare. Second, we have to make sure and fight against efforts to privatize social security and to privatize Medicare.
What would he bring to Congress:
Business experience, recent business experience. The landscape has changed in the 30 years since Congressman LoBiondo has gone into government. I bring a vision that is shared by people on the ground. And I bring an understanding of what people are actually going through. They’re not caring about Democrats and Republicans throwing sand at each other in the sand box. In fact they’re disgusted by that. I bring energy. I bring a drive. I bring a desire to only bring results for the Second Congressional District. And I bring that experience of knowing how.
Hughes entered the race with pedigree and a strong backing from his party. However, as the race has continued and name recognition and money have come into play; the incumbent is starting to hit his normal groove. Barring something dramatic on Election Day, it would seem Congressman LoBiondo is on pace for another fairly comfortable win.