Back in 1990, newly-elected Governor Jim Florio raised taxes by $2.8 billion, and neither party anticipated that voters would take out their frustration with Florio on Democratic candidates for Congress. Bill Bradley, the popular two-term Democratic U.S. Senator, almost lost his seat to former Public Utilities Commission President Christine Todd Whitman — the 50%-47% margin was almost entirely a backlash against Florio.
That year, the 37-year-old Danielczyk nearly upset five-term Democratic Congressman Bernard Dwyer. He lost by only 5,598 votes (51%-46%), and spent just $8,887 on his campaign; the 69-year-old Dwyer spent sixteen times that amount. In the old sixth district, which included most of Middlesex County and Linden, Rahway and Roselle in Union County, Danielczyk beat Dwyer in Edison (where Dwyer had served as Mayor before winning a State Senate seat in 1973), and in North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Sayreville, South River and Woodbridge. Republicans won two Freeholder seats in Middlesex County that year, and a race for County Clerk.
In the neighboring third district, one-term Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone nearly lost his seat to Republican Paul Kapalko, whose also did not receive much help from his party. Pallone beat Kapalko by 4,170 votes — 49%-46%. Kapalko, a former Asbury Park Councilman, had lost a race for State Assembly a year earlier to a former Pallone aide, Daniel Jacobson. (He served about two months in the Assembly to fill the term of Joseph Palaia, who had won Pallone’s State Senate seat in a Special Election.) Pallone outspent Kapalko, $634,109 to $115,202.
After the 1990 census, New Jersey lost a congressional seat. Mapmakers put Pallone and Dwyer in the same district, and Dwyer retired rather than face Pallone in a primary. Then-Assemblyman (now State Senator) Robert Smith ran instead, and Pallone beat him for the Democratic nomination. In the general, Pallone easily defeated State Senator Joseph Kyrillos in a district that had become substantially more Democratic.
But what would have happened if Danielczyk and Kapalko had won in 1990? Perhaps the same thing — a merged district would have forced a Republican primary between the two freshman Congressmen. But since the district strongly favored Democrats — and with voter resentment toward Florio on the way out (Florio nearly won re-election in 1993, and Bill Clinton carried the new sixth district by a huge margin over George H.W. Bush), the seat would have probably gone back to the Democrats. Pallone would likely have sought a comeback, but without incumbency, he may have lost that primary to Smith — and gone on to be Clinton’s Regional EPA Administrator.