There has been no race in the state of New Jersey in the last 6 years that has not been a presidential or gubernatorial election that has garnered the attention of the the 3rd Congressional District. In 2008, 2010, and 2012 it was a “must watch” race while the other congressional races hardly got any type of attention. This year is no different with an open seat at stake.
Democratic Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard and Republican former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur would emerge as their party’s respective nominees. While the district features 8,000 more registered Democrats, Independent voters make up nearly the same total as Democratic and Republican voters combined. That large bloc has leaned Republican and the district got slightly more favorable for Republicans in 2011 after redistricting. Another aspect of the race is the fact that MacArthur was chosen because of his ability to self-fundraise and almost “buy” his election if needed while Belgard would need to solely depend on contributions.
The district has also been controlled by a Republican for all but two years going back to the 1890s. Former Congressman John Adler was able to win in 2008 behind President Barack Obama and a strong year for Democrats. The Republican Party quickly nabbed it back in 2010 behind their own strong year.
As the general election was starting to pick up steam over the summer, Belgard’s campaign would state;
MacArthur is simply out-of-touch with the issues that South Jersey’s middle class families and small business owners face. He’s a North Jersey insurance executive who made millions while his company was repeatedly sued for shortchanging disaster victims, and now he’s trying to buy himself a seat in Congress. Aimee is focused on creating jobs, growing the economy and standing up for our communities’ middle-class families, veterans and seniors. She has a long track record of working with both parties to get things done for her constituents, and that’s exactly what she’s going to do in Congress. South Jersey voters are ready for a leader in Congress who understands them and will work to find reasonable solutions to the gridlock in Washington and the problems facing middle class families and small businesses — that’s what Aimee offers.
The campaign would add,
Tom MacArthur made millions while hardworking people suffered and how he’s trying to use that money to buy himself a Congressional seat in a district he’s not even from. Aimee Belgard is a mother, an award winning advocate for cancer research, a community leader and longtime district resident. She has dedicated her life to giving back to others in their time of need. It seems like Tom MacArthur sees someone struggling and starts counting dollar signs. I don’t think voters are going to have a tough time choosing between the two this November.
MacArthur himself would exclaim,
I think voters want to know what I’m going to do to help them. I think that’s what matters to them,” MacArthur said. “And one of the concerns I have about this campaign is I keep trying to get back to that. That’s what matters. All the nonsense about the perks, the congressional perks, this and that, or where you live — let’s talk about the issues that face our country, and more specifically the issues that affect local voters.
As the calendar turned to September and the “unofficial” start to the general election season, a Stockton College poll showed a dead heat with both candidates generating 42% support with 13% undecided and 3% supporting “someone else”.
For Daniel J. Douglas, Director of the Hughes Center at Stockton,
A congressional race this close will continue to draw national attention to New Jersey. The candidates will be fighting over a relatively small number of undecided voters from now to Election Day.
Belgard was leading MacArthur in Burlington County while MacArthur lead Belgard in Ocean County.
The closeness of the race would naturally draw the attention of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), who have run multiple ads against MacArthur that have intensified the race. Additionally, supporters for Belgard would enter the race’s conversation. One such supporter is Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15), who is running for Congress as well in the 12th Congressional District.
For Watson Coleman,
She’s right on the issues, she’s standing up for people in her district, and I think that message is resonating. I also think that people are very weary in the state of New Jersey about who they’re sending back to Congress. They want things to get done. They want to walk away from this sort of no-ism that is taking over the Congress and they want people who are willing to work with one another so that they can come to solutions on some of these problems.
With about a month to go before Election Day, the two candidates would face off and exchange words in both debate settings and amp up talk on the campaign trails as well. The state of the race and what could be a close finish that was showecased in the Stockton poll kept the race’s heat on high.
As Belgard would utter when talking about MacArthur,
Mr. MacArthur talks about how he’s a self-made business man. He made billions of dollars and if he did it at the expense of other people’s perils, now he is moving into a district where we have thousands of people still out of their homes because of Hurricane Sandy. There’s a history here…of having been CEO of a company that has been sued multiple times for denying claims of people who were suffering from hurricanes, wildfires and the like, and I think it’s something that the public deserves to know.
That issue highlighted by Belgard in the second half of her comment has become one of the trademark elements of the race and what caused a very intense exchange between the DCCC and MacArthur’s campaign.
The issue of pay equity also has been a crucial issue in this race and Belgard would take aim at MacArthur on this area as well.
Now I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said CEOs already go out of their way to pay women fairly. You know what his evidence was? His evidence was he gave one woman at one company a raise. Now if this reminds you of Mitt Romney’s ‘binders full of women’, well it sure does. Mr. MacArthur just doesn’t get it, and this startling ignorance is the last thing we need in Congress.
She would also bring up legislation regarding requiring employers to show that wage discrepancies are based on other factors than sex and increasing transparency by allowing women to ask certain questions about their male contemporaries without fear of termination.
She would add,
These are not unreasonable regulations. It doesn’t place an undue burden on businesses. It would simply make critical changes to a 50 year old law that has not accomplished its mission.
Additionally, Belgard would shoot down some within her party about her aggressiveness in this race by voicing;
My race has really been about what I stand for more so than attacking my opponent for whatever his issues may be. And for me, I am from South Jersey, I love South Jersey, and that is what drives me to run. Because I see the hardworking middle class folks of South Jersey and the Jersey Shore region struggling. They need a voice. It’s the people that drive me in South Jersey that push me forward and give me the energy to continue this race. I am certainly not going to do anything illegal – I have worked to hard to get to where I am I this race to cross any line,” she said when asked if there’s been any effort to distance her campaign from the national organization and the problems its caused. “For me, it’s about making sure I stay on target with my race, I’m very proud of what I’ve done. Even if you look around here today, the phenomenal support that I have and the people that are helping me with my race, that’s what I stay focused on. For me, it’s not about being a Republican or Democrat. It’s about serving the people that you represent.
MacArthur’s campaign would respond to Belgard’s comments by outlining,
The bottom line is this: Tom MacArthur has practiced pay equality as a business leader, while Aimee Belgard just talks about it as a politician. Tom MacArthur started from middle-class roots, built a small business into a large company, and created and preserved thousands of good-paying American jobs for both women and men. Tom did it by treating people fairly, and promoting a culture of honesty and mutual respect that helped people build a better life for them and their families. On the other hand, Aimee Belgard is a career politician and trial lawyer whose empty candidacy is built on regurgitating partisan talking points that are fed to her by the same special interests and party bosses in Washington bankrolling her race. Worst of all, from her discredited personal attacks against Tom, to her repeatedly raising taxes, to her pocketing taxpayer-funded pay raises, to her laying off police officers, Aimee Belgard has demonstrated a stunning pattern of deception and dishonesty that make her a perfect fit for Washington, DC – which is exactly the reason voters shouldn’t send her there.
While it looked like it would a close race, a Monmouth University poll with a few weeks to go would show a growing lead for MacArthur who had a 51 to 41 edge over Belgard with 6% undecided and 2% supporting the third party candidate.
As Patrick Murray, Monmouth University pollster, would state;
This has arguably been the nastiest race in New Jersey this year. While both sides have taken shots at each other, national Democrats have weighed in with some controversial attacks against MacArthur. It doesn’t look like they worked. This is not turning out to be the horse race that Democrats had hoped.
The poll would lead National Republican Campaign Committee Spokesman Ian Prior to utter,
Aimee Belgard’s campaign has been a disaster since day one, but Nancy Pelosi and her campaign team in Washington have made things even worse by running a smear campaign against Tom MacArthur that has completely backfired. With Belgard down 10 points with three weeks until the election, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see national Democrats cut and run after making a thorough mess of things.
Women voters were supporting both candidates fairly equally but MacArthur held a more than 20 point edge among men according to the poll. That breakdown especially with pay equity being a focal point and women not rallying more behind Belgard has likely hurt her down the stretch.
MacArthur would react to the poll by stating,
I saw it, I’m certainly happy and encourage by it. I think it demonstrates that what I’m saying is resonating with voters. But it changes nothing about the way I’m going to about the next three weeks. Until 8 oclock on election night I am running with every ounce of energy I have. That’s the only poll that really matters, is November 4th.
He would add,
As a local elected official she didn’t live with her own decisions, she was an elected official for four months and announced she was running for county office. She was in county office for less than a year when she announced she was running for Congress. This is about jumping from job to job, not about living with the results of your decisions. I went on a district-wide listening tour for months, visiting with employers and employees, and responded with a comprehensive, 11-page jobs plan. In comparison, Freeholder Belgard’s ‘plan’ is a roughly two index cards of poll-tested buzz phrases and empty rhetoric that virtually ignores an in-depth discussion of critical topics such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Shore Tourism, Manufacturing, Fishing and Farming.
Belgard’s campaign would respond to the poll and MacArthur by uttering,
Three recent polls show this race tied is a dead heat. We’re in a very strong position going into Election Day. Voters trust Aimee, a longtime advocate with the American cancer society and community leader, to fight for them in Congress. Voters also know MacArthur is an out of touch North Jersey CEO who is on the wrong side of nearly every issue that pertains to women and middle-class families. He’s anti equal pay, doesn’t support increasing the minimum wage, and he’s staunchly pro-life, backed by a group that would outlaw abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. Voters are rejecting his extreme agenda and that’s why we’re in such a good position going into the final stretch of this campaign.
Not to out done, MacArthur’s campaign would fire back with;
With just under three weeks to go, we are right where we need to be. While the Belgard campaign likes to point to ‘recent’ polls showing this race tied, the two most recent polls show Tom with a strong lead. While Tom has traveled the district meeting with local businesses and released a comprehensive jobs plan, Freeholder Belgard’s ‘plan’ is about two index cards of platitudes and buzz phrases. Voters understand that Aimee Belgard is a perennial politician with no serious ideas to get America working again. Our campaign is focused on executing an aggressive get out the vote effort with our broad base of volunteer supporters, while Freeholder Belgard and her campaign team are struggling so mightily to find support that they recently turned to Craig’s List to pay people to help them get out the vote. At this point, Freeholder Belgard should go back to hiding from the press and public – her campaign was doing better back then.
Belgard’s campaign would too continue to build up the conversation of the race by exclaiming,
North Jersey CEO Tom MacArthur’s strategy from day one has been to buy a seat in Congress at any cost. Millions of dollars later – not including his relocation costs – he has failed miserably. This race is tied; proving that MacArthur’s investment in himself was a bad one. Burlington and Ocean county voters aren’t fooled by his disingenuous commercials touting concern for working men and women. They know MacArthur isn’t on their side. His own employees – the people who knew him best – had to sue his company to recover over $5.5 million of overtime wages. MacArthur opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act and he opposes raising the minimum wage. The choice is clear, the stakes are high, and Aimee Belgard has earned a broad coalition of support garnering tremendous momentum with less than three weeks until Election Day.
Belgard herself would add,
You know, Tom MacArthur doesn’t even believe we need a minimum wage. The interesting thing is, if you look at the numbers, Tom MacArthur has spent 5 million dollars in this race. It would take a person working in the third district over 240 years working 50 hours a week at minimum wage level to earn what Tom MacArthur has spent in this race. This is a real crisis in the United States.”Asked what she sees as the biggest issues in the race now that things have come down to the wire, Belgard reiterated her positions on securing funding for the district’s Dix-MacGuire-Lakehurst Joint Base, improving the quality of healthcare, and raising the minimum wage. Most of the polling except for one poll had myself and Mr. MacArthur neck-and-neck, or maybe a little bit ahead. So that one poll I don’t actually give a lot of weight to. I will say that I think it’s very telling that last week, Tom MacArthur put another million dollars into this race. He is now the number one self-funder in the entire country. So he’s got to be a little worried. We must be doing something right.
Two late polls in the final days of the race have given credence to Belgard’s claim as it seems the race is tightening a bit in the end.
A memo by Adam Geller’s National Research, Inc. showed a 44-37 edge for MacArthur. While a Stockton poll would show a 46-41 edge for MacArthur with 8% undecided.
This election is trending toward the Republican. A fair number of voters have not yet committed as the candidates continue to battle.
It appears that this toss up race has still had elements of that nature as outside groups have contributed to the dynamics of the race. It does look like the Republican nominee is setting himself up for a more favorable path to victory based on polls overall. The race has been very negative and both candidates have not slowed down in the final days. Barring a late surge, MacArthur seems poised to maintain his party’s seat. Does Belgard have a late surge in her?