New Jersey’s congressional redistricting commission has a deadline of January 17 to determine the lines of the state’s 12 new districts. One incumbent congressman will be out of a job as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census determination that New Jersey’s population did not grow enough over the last decade to retain its 13 members of congress.
The commission’s chairman, Rutgers Law School Dean and former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer, has stated that he wants the commission’s work to be completed by Wednesday of this week. The commission of 6 Democrats, 6 Republicans and Farmer is meeting today in New Brunswick.
While no one will say with certainty which incumbents will be pitted against each other, the most likely scenario according to several reports has the commission merging the 5th Congressional District, now represented by Republican Congressman Scott Garrett, and the 9th Congressional District, now represented by Democratic Congressman Steven Rothman. Garrett lives in the Sussex County township of Wantage in the northwest corner of the state. Rothman lives in the Bergen County borough of Fair Lawn. Unless the commission creates a district that is more gerrymandered than the current 6th, it is hard to imagine a new district that combines the current 5th and 9th and that includes both Wantage and Fair Lawn, that is not predominantly currently represented by Garrett.
Despite that apparent advantage to Garrett, based on this scenario, conventional wisdom is that the advantage would be Rothman’s.
Here’s the question that no one is asking: If Garrett is redistricted into a race against Rothman, would he forgo that battle in favor of seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Robert Menendez for New Jersey’s junior seat in the U.S. Senate?
If Garrett determines that his new district is unwinable or too close for comfort, why wouldn’t he take a shot at the Senate race? As one of the most conservative members of congress and a Tea Party favorite, Garrett does not have close ties to New Jersey’s moderate GOP establishment. That the party establishment has apparently lined up behind State Senator Joe Kyrillos for the U.S Senate nomination would not phase Garrett.
Garrett had $1.6 million in cash on hand in his congressional campaign kitty as of September 30. As Chairman of the House Sub-committee on Capital Markets and Vice Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Garrett has a valuable fund raising Rolodex. He would be a formidable primary opponent for Kyrillos.