Blog here. In 2018, Let’s Flip GOP Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s Seat “Blue” November 16, 2017
The political world’s attention has been focused on the Democratic gubernatorial landslides in VA and NJ. However, another bombshell hit “Team Red.” On that same “Super-BlueTuesday,”11/07/2017, when Democrats were winning races all over the nation, GOP Congressman Frank LoBiondo announced he would not seek re-election to the House in 2018 (TPM, Shuman, 11/07/17). In a statement posted on Facebook, Cong. LoBiondo wrote, “Regrettably, our nation is now consumed by increasing political polarization; there is no longer middle ground to honestly debate issues and put forward solutions.” Rep. LoBiondo noted that his retirement was not based on “any health problems or perceived chances at winning re-election.” He stated that it was the “appropriate time to leave, since I am term-limited as Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee and in my position on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.” LoBiondo added that he and his colleagues who had come to improve D.C. through “good governance” found themselves becoming “outliers”: “In legislating, we previously fought against allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Today a vocal and obstinate minority within both parties has hijacked good legislation in pursuit of no legislation (TPM, Shuham, 11/07/17).”
GOP Cong. LoBiondo’s retirement announcement is no “outlier.” GOPers are leaving office at a higher rate than Democrats in recent Congresses. Besides LoBiondo, 24 other House GOPers from across the country have already stated that they are retiring, running for another office, or resigning. More are expected to follow (See CNN, Petulla & Hansler, 11/10/17). Such retirements increase the chances that the Democrats could retake the House. With these retirements, the incumbency factor, bolstering many GOPers, gets diminished. Republicans are now burdened with spending extra money to try to win a majority of these open seats that many Democrats will fiercely contest. Democrats need to win a net 24 seats to re-capture the House (CNN, Petula & Hansler). In 9/2017, moderate 7th- term Penn. Cong. Charlie Dent announced that he would not run in 2018. Cong LoBiondo then told “The Hill” magazine that he didn’t plan to retire alongside his colleague. Lo Biondo said, “I still have high hopes (TPM, Shuham, 11/07/17).” Apparently, LoBiondo’s “high hopes” have been dashed in the era of “the ‘y uu ge ly’”unpopular Donald, and LoBiondo is going out the door together with Dent. Let’s examine LoBiondo’s district, his record, and the race to replace him.
Twelfth-term Congressman Frank LoBiondo (71) currently represents NJ’s 2nd Congressional District (CD). The present NJ 2nd covers that state’s southern end. The 2nd stretches from Gloucester County with its Philadelphia suburbs to the oceanfront communities on Long Beach Island. The Jersey 2nd contains the cities of Vineland, Atlantic City, and Millville. Cape May, Sea Isle City, Wildwood, and Ocean City also lie in the 2nd (Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs). Tourism, gambling, agriculture, and manufacturing drive the 2nd’s economy. The chemical industry is a strong presence in towns along the Delaware River and in Vineland. Cumberland and Atlantic Counties contain NJ’s most productive farmlands. Glass and plastics manufacturing are vital to Cumberland County, especially around Millville and Vineland. Salem County has a large nuclear power plant. Gambling casinos are big in Atlantic City, and new hotels with famous entertainers cater to that city’s tourist industry. South of Atlantic City, there are beach resorts in Ocean City, where Italian-American author Gay Talese grew up. Wildwood, Cape May, and Ocean City are also resorts. Hurricane Sandy hit this area hard in 2012 (Barone & CQ !4 Almanacs).
The Jersey 2nd is also politically diverse. The 2nd has strong Democratic leanings in the Delaware River towns and in Vineland. There is a strong GOP presence in Cape May, while Atlantic City often votes for “Team Blue.” Post-2010 redistricting added a few coastal towns from the Jersey 3rd CD. However, the 2nd has remained politically marginal and fairly swingy. Gore won the 2nd in 2000, while W Bush triumphed in 2004. Obama easily took the 2nd in 2008 and 2012 with 8% and 8.1% margins respectively. In 2016, the 2nd flipped to Donald, giving him a 4.6% margin (Nir, Daily Kos Elections, by congressional districts). The 2nd’s 2012 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) was a weak D+1. The 2017 PVI is an anemic R+1 score, all indicative of a swingy/ flipping district (Barone 14, Cook Political Report). The 2nd , therefore, has no problems repeatedly electing a GOPer to the House while voting “Blue” in statewide elections around Atlantic City and in the industrial towns (CQ 14).
New Jersey native Frank LoBiondo grew up in Vineland on the vegetable farm that his Sicilian immigrant grandparents had established. LoBiondo’s father bought a used truck to take his produce to market, and soon started carrying his neighbors’ produce as well. His father’s business grew into LoBiondo Brothers Motor Express Inc., where Frank worked for 26 years (CQ & Barone 14). LoBiondo received a 1968 business degree from Philadelphia’s St. Joseph University. He credits his father with getting him into politics. Lo Biondo’s father served as Deerfield Township mayor, was president of the school board, and active in the Kiwanis (CQ14). In 1984, LoBiondo was elected to a county office. When LoBiondo’s assemblyman retired because of illness, he urged LoBiondo to run for his seat. LoBiondo won and served in the NJ Assembly from 1997-1994 (Barone 14). In the Assembly, he strongly opposed new taxes and gun control laws. In 1992, he ran against the incumbent Democratic Congressman, losing by 15 percentage points. In GOP year 1994, the incumbent Democrat decided to retire. LoBiondo easily won his GOP primary and trounced his Democratic rival by a 30% margin. He ran on Newt Gingrich’s right-wing Contract with America platform (See Barone 14). When he first ran, LoBiondo promised to serve no more than 12 years, but has since broken that pledge. However, he still coasts to re-election in his ultra-swingy district (Barone 14).
LoBiondo gets a lot of media praise as a GOP “moderate,” primarily because of his environmental stands. He and his fellow Garden State GOP Congressman, Chris Smith, have the highest lifetime “Team Red” rankings from the League of Conservation Voters. And what was that score that we’re supposed to do handsprings over? A middling 57%. In 2016, LoBiondo received a straight 50% from this group (scorecard.lcv.org). Wow! Compared to the “southern-fried” and Rocky Mountain resource-exploiting rest of the GOP crew, LoBiondo’s a freaking “moderate.” However, compared to how most Democrats vote, with high 90’s and perfect scores, his 50% environmental record is pathetic. Oh yes, LoBiondo was one of only 8 GOPers who voted for the Democrats’ 2009 cap-and-trade system regulating greenhouse gas emissions, which died in the Senate. However, in 2011, LoBiondo supported a bill to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, the key to any environmental progress (See CQ 14). LoBiondo, as opposed to many other GOPers, fought for disaster relief for his constituents hit by Hurricane Sandy. That’s the least he could do (CA14). However, despite a few “deviations,” LoBiondo is still ranked by multiple groups as a more moderate “right of center” GOPer. Translation: he’s less wacky than the present “Atilla the Hun” Tea Party set (See ballotopedia.org). Labor’s AFL-CIO gives LoBiondo similar middling 50%-60% scores, because he sometimes helps his labor constituents who work in the Atlantic City casinos (See CQ). Again, he is no strong pro-labor congressman as most Dems are. Cong. LoBiondo has voted with his far- right party 91.4% of the time in the present 115th Congress and voted 85.5% in line with Demagogue Donald’s positions (Bycoffe, fivethirtyeight.com, Willis, propublica.org). Such “moderation” in the age of “the Donald” almost puts “moderate” LoBiondo up there with the rest of his 90% Dixie/Rocky Mountain Tea Party gang.
“Moderate” LoBiondo endorsed Trump in early 2016. After the misogynistic Donald/Billy Bush recording surfaced in 10/2016, LoBiondo withdrew his endorsement, but voted for him anyway (“The Hill,” Smilowitz, 11/08/16). LoBiondo strongly opposes abortion and repeatedly votes to restrict abortion services(votesmart.org). He voted against Obama’s stimulus bill that started the economic recovery and would have created new jobs (ontheissues.org). LoBiondo supported W’s disastrous Iraq War (on the issues.org). LoBiondo is generally in favor of repealing Obamacare. He called it “deeply flawed and unworkable.” In 1/2017, he voted in favor of the resolution that began the process of repealing it. In 5/2017, however, he voted against the radical anti-Obamacare bill that passed the House and died in the Senate (nj.com/times, 2013, votesmart.com, fivethirtyeight.com, Bycoffe, “The Hill,” Marcos, 5/04/17). No Democratic Congressman would have voted to repeal Obamacare at any time. Voters in the NJ 2nd CD should not have to worry how their “moderate” Congressman will stand on this vital safety net issue every time this matter comes up.
LoBiondo was one of 13 GOP Congressman to vote against Donald’s radical tax reform for the 1% bill. On 11/16/2017, this awful legislation passed the GOP-House 227-205. No Democrats voted “AYE (CNN Fox & Walsh, 11/16/17). Lo Biondo opposed the bill “in its current form,” because his constituents will lose key state and local (SALT) deductions (gannettnj.com, 11/14/17). The key words here are “in its current form.” LoBiondo might be persuaded to go along with some partial “tinkering” in this area of SALT deductions. Lame duck Cong. LoBiondo might then choose to ignore any gutting of the key individual health care mandate that might end up in a final bill, one being pushed by Senate GOPers. Such a repeal would cripple Obamacare. Democrats will fight the individual mandate repeal provision “big time.” On previous occasions, LoBiondo condemned the individual mandate and called it “unconstitutional (capemaycountyerald.com, 1/20/11, press release, lobiondo.house.gov/press release, 2017).” Who knows what he will ultimately do?
Democrats will fight hard to flip this open swing seat with someone who will truly and consistently represent the NJ 2nd CD’s constituents. The GOP will pour oodles of money to back up their NJ 2nd CD 2018 nominee. Cape May Democratic State Senator Jeff Van Drew is interested in running and has the backing of George Norcross, the brother of Dem. Cong. Donald Norcross who represents NJ’s 1st CD. Retired state Superior Court Judge and former Assembly member Raymond Batten is also being mentioned. Retired teacher Tanzie Youngblood of Woolwich is already running. Others could enter the race. With LoBiondo’s retirement, the Cook Political Report has changed the rating of this race from “safe Republican” to “toss-up (Salant, 11/07/17, nj.compolitics).” Whichever Democrat wins the primary must be strongly backed by all the “Blue” voters in the 2nd CD. They must vote in droves to take back the NJ 2nd . Flipping this district will be crucial to recapturing the House to put a check on Demagogue Donald.