U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett’s (R-5) money – $2.2 million in the bank right now, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) – scares away most, and his past feasting on Democratic challengers make the district itself daunting, too, for the opposition party.
On paper, there are 108,613 Democrats, 120,953 registered Republicans and 201,942 unaffiliated voters who lean Republican in CD5. Although former Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer is already putting up strong numbers on the fundraising front – almost $600,000, according to the FEC – Garrett’s most formidable challenge, given the dimensions of CD5, could come from someone from within the ranks of his own party.
That’s the view of Montclair University Political Scientist Brigid Harrison, who has long observed the district, and who considered Garrett’s political footing today in the aftermath of a report citing the movement conservative’s refusal to give money to the National Republican Congressional Committee because it donates to gay candidates.
“More likely where this leaves Garret vulnerable is among members of his own political party,” said Harrison. “Any opponent could point to him being inconsistent with district views. But Garrett is a big nut to overcome with the money that he can raise. It’s a bizarre district geographically, but a Bergen home grown and affluent challenger could pose problems.
“It’s a really tough district to win as a Democrat,” she added.
A Republican source this afternoon told PolitickerNJ that Wall Street is going to freeze out Garrett financially as a consequence of the remarks Politico says he made about gays. Still, it will be tough to dislodge the veteran GOP congressman with a challenge from either party, and no Republican is stepping forward.
“Our incumbents are just so insulated,” Harrison. “Challengers of the highest level have failed.”
PolitickerNJ today contacted both Former Bergen County Freeholder Director John Driscoll and former LD38 state senate candidate Fernando Alonso to gauge their interest in a 2016 challenge of Garrett. Neither seemed interested. “John Dirscoll would be an interesting candidate,” Harrison said, but the Paramus Republican said that while he’s flattered to be mentioned, he wants to remain in Bergen and close to his family.
A Republican source mentioned another potential candidate, Republican rising star Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39), who will not run for the seat next year but, the source added, should not be ruled out in the future.