The retirement announcement of Congressman Rush Holt sent waves through the Democratic Party in New Jersey yesterday. A true progressive, he will be sorely missed in Congress – and for those that have never met him, he also happens to be a genuinely awesome human being to speak to.
His departure leaves a huge vacuum in the 12th Congressional District, which also happens to be one of the more peculiarly gerrymandered districts in our state (see image). Covering four separate counties each with its own political identity and each with battle tested political candidates, an open race with a large field potentially awaits.
As has already been reported, the number of registered democrats county by county shows this race as a tale of two counties. (Voter data is often acquired through different systems leading to occasional slight variations.) With approximately 152,668 registered Democrats in the 12th Congressional District, there is clearly a hierarchy of importance based on democratic population totals. Here is the breakdown by county:
Mercer: 59,241 39% – Middlesex: 57,454 37% – Union: 18,523 12% – Somerset: 17,450 11%
At face value, one would consider spending the majority of their campaign time and resources in both Mercer and Middlesex County. And at face value that would be the correct call. However, when we delve a little deeper into the numbers something interesting happens — voter turnout paints a different picture. By adding a likely voter screen to the numbers above, the total number of Democrats in the 12th Congressional that have voted in at least 1 of the last 4 Primary Elections, 44,353 voters, we notice a shift.
Mercer: 17,559 39% – Middlesex: 13,868 31% – Union: 8,496 20% – Somerset: 4430 10%
Union County’s percentage of total voters increases significantly. Several factors contribute to this uptick, such as a strong county Democratic organization, dense urban population, energized voters, etc… but what is made clear in my mind is that this race is not a tale of two counties, but actually three’s company. The road to replace Rush Holt must travel through Union County as well.
By Michael Makarski
About the Author: Michael Makarski is Senior Account Executive and Political Consultant at Vision Media Marketing. He has served as a consultant and advisor on races for the United States Senate, Congress, State Senate, Assembly and dozens of local offices. Follow him on Twitter at @MMakarski.