So far, Republican Alan Bateman’s congressional campaign has had no more of an impact than any of the other long-shot congressional candidates in the state.
Bateman, the Holmdel deputy mayor, is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-Princeton). As of June 30, he had only raised $7,575, and had $6,487 on hand (and owed $5,325 in debt).
But according to Bateman’s campaign, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) sees something promising, and has committed to making a $5,000 donation to Bateman from his PAC.
“He doesn’t just throw (donations) out,” said Bateman campaign director John Blakeslee, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate from Holmdel High School who’s leaving the campaign to attend Boston College at the end of the summer.
It didn’t hurt that Bateman and Boehner both lived in Union Township, Ohio in the early 1980s. Although they didn’t know each other, Bateman voted for Boehner during his days as a member of the town’s board of trustees.
Blakeslee spoke to PolitickerNJ.com from Washington, where Bateman was working Republican contacts to try to get some more commitments from House leadership and top Republicans. Bateman had a meeting with officials for Americans for Tax Reform – conservative activist Grover Norquist’s group – and representatives of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) political action committee.
“We’re really receiving a great reception here. It’s unusual for running as a challenger in a year like this in what’s considered a safe district,” he said.
Blakeslee said that national Republicans, looking at Gov. Corzine’s unpopularity, think they see a chance to tie Holt to Corzine’s ill-fated asset monetization plan. Holt was one of only two Congressional Democrats to support it.
But Ingrid Reed, director of the Eagleton Institute for New Jersey Politics, said that the donation was probably largely based on personal connections.
“Bateman may be the kind of conservative who needs some encouragement, and because through some connection he came to the attention of Boehner and just simply wanted to encourage somebody like that,” she said. “It does happen in politics.”
Holt, a plasma physicist by trade, barely won the 12th District seat in 1998, when he edged out incumbent Republican Mike Pappas by three points. He faced another challenge from former Rep. Dick Zimmer in 2000, which he won by a razor thin margin. But since redistricting, Holt has easily beaten all his opponents by double digit margins. Last year, he beat Republican Joseph Sinagra by 30 points.
During his decade in office, Holt has developed the reputation of a policy hawk and tends to keep a lower profile than many of his Democratic counterparts. He hasn’t exactly been a lightning rod for Republican fury. Add to that his constituents’ excitement about Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, and it’s apparent that Bateman is running one of the steepest up-hill battles in New Jersey.
“I’m not saying (Bateman) is a shoe-in by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a fight,” said Blakeslee.