NJ Spotlight Profiles Democratic Candidates in Competitive 11th Primary Race

L to R: Mitchell Cobert, Tamara Harris, Mikie Sherrill, and Mark Washburne at a debate in Livingston. Photo: NJ Spotlight

New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District seat is up for grabs now that long-term incumbent Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen announced he will not be seeking re-election. Democrats are intent on flipping the seat in November, but first they must muscle through a competitive primary full of strong contenders.

The Democratic field has five candidates: Frontrunner Mikie Sherrill, a U.S. Navy vet from Montclair is leading the pack, closely tailed by financial analyst Tamara Harris of West Orange, former assistant Attorney General Mitchell Cobert of Morristown, history teacher Mark Washburne of Mendham, and economic sociologist Alison Heslin of Sparta.

The 11th District, once considered among the reddest in the state with Frelinghuysen having served 12 terms, is being targeted for a pickup by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). A grassroots group of Democrats, called NJ 11th For Change, had been dogging Frelinghuysen since the 2016 election, as Donald Trump captured less than 50 percent of the district in the presidential election, barely squeezing out a win over Hillary Clinton by less than a percentage point. After staggering and constant criticism from the group — particularly during the fight over the Affordable Care Act — Frelinghuysen decided to retire from office, despite having been given the powerful position of House Appropriations committee chairman.

The district contains portions of Essex, Sussex, Morris and Passaic counties, with 158,666 registered Democrats and 168,247 registered Republicans. Registered unaffiliated voters number 216,164 and they will undoubtedly be the key to capturing the race for either party.

Mikie Sherrill, frontrunner

Mikie Sherrill, 46, of Montclair has emerged as the primary frontrunner with all party-line support as well as endorsements from the New York Times, former Vice President Joe Biden, VoteVets, several bricklayer and carpenter unions, BlueWaveNJ, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Singer Barbra Streisand has also donated to her campaign. Sherrill is the DCCC’s Red-to-Blue chosen candidate and has $1,832,112 on hand.

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