Obamacare Lives!—Democrat Andy Kim Defeats GOP Trump Congressman Tom MacArthur November 19, 2018
Remember how in the 2010 and 2014 midterms Democratic House candidates “ran for cover” and went into defensive crouches over having passed health care reform/aka Obamacare? At that time, too many Democratic voters also complained that Obamacare was a “sell out” to corporate interests like Big Pharma. When GOPers went into Tea Party rage and voted in droves for “Red” candidates who promised to repeal this major safety-net legislation, too many Democrats foolishly stayed home to “protest” compromises in this bill. They ignored the fact that spending on the enormous health care industry, which involves millions of Americans, requires compromise for passage. What happened? In midterm 2010, the GOP took back the House and recaptured the Senate in 2014. In 2016, too many Democrats believed that Hillary had the election “in the bag” and there was no need to vote for her or fellow “Blue” congressional candidates. The result? With a national trifecta (the Presidency and both houses of Congress), Trump and his fellow GOPers repeatedly tried to repeal Obamacare, an obsession with their base.
However, many Americans were now enrolled in Obamacare and liked it. Additionally, the threat of its repeal was now real, not theoretical. Public opinion had changed and opposed destroying Obamacare. Constituents packed town hall meetings telling their Congressmembers to save Obamacare. Voters emailed, telephoned, or wrote their House members to preserve Obamacare. When the GOP didn’t have enough votes for its initial attempt to repeal Obamacare in early 3/2017, GOP Congressman Tom MacArthur “rode to the rescue.” In his new “Kill Obamacare” plan, MacArthur, then co-chair of the “moderate” GOP Tuesday Group, gave in to the extremist GOP Freedom (“Freedumb”) Caucus. He wrote on a legal pad, with VP Pence’s and Trump’s encouragement, a new amendment gutting Obamacare. This amendment would have tightened the screws on vulnerable Americans and would have let states allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums on older people with pre-existing conditions. MacArthur/Trumpcare 2.0 would have given insurers the freedom not to cover essential health services like maternity care and cancer treatment (NY Times Editorial, 4/28/17). After corralling many GOP “moderates,” MacArthur was able to get the GOP House to pass this bill in 5/2017. Only the votes of dying GOP AZ Sen. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME) in 7/2017, killed a Senate bill to destroy Obamacare. This Senate bill was only voted upon because Cong. MacArthur had pushed his health care repeal legislation through the House (See vox.com, 7/28/18, Campbell, A).
After MacArthur passed his “Kill Obamacare” bill in the House, then House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated that GOPers who voted for this repeal legislation would have that vote “tattooed on their foreheads.” MacArthur had the biggest “tattoo.” In taking back the House in the 11/06/2018 midterm election, Democrats used House GOP votes to repeal Obamacare as one of their key campaign issues. In that election, Cong. Tom MacArthur, the House architect of repealing Obamacare, was defeated by Democrat Andy Kim, a member-to-be of the new 116th People’s House that will take over in 1/2019. The new diverse 116th People’s House, with members including Kim, will be more representative of the real America. Let’s discuss this race.
GOP Congressman Tom MacArthur (58) was running for a third-term in the 11/06/2018 election in NJ’s 3rd Congressional District (CD). The Garden State 3rd is located in South Central NJ. Part of the Joint Base McGuire Dix-Lakehurst sits in the 3rd’s center. This base combines an Army military reservation, an Air Force base, and a Navy air station. Defense contractors are attracted to this area, with 42,000 jobs connected to this base. Lockheed -Martin in Moorestown is a big employer with its naval electronics surveillance system plant. In addition to defense and thousands of agricultural acres in the NJ 3rd, health care and tourism bolster the economy. The 3rd includes large parts of Ocean and Burlington Counties. The 3rd has several suburban Philadelphia Burlington County townships (Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs).
Ocean County has been the fastest growing part of NJ, a kind of “Frost Belt Florida.” It has attracted many NY and North Jersey retirees, eager to leave urban crime and high taxes. Politically, the Jersey 3rd is a “tale of two competitive districts.” The Democratic half is located in western Burlington County in the Philadelphia media market, while the GOP half lies in the eastern Ocean County NY media market (monmouth.edu/polling -institute, 8/25/18). The current Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the 3rd an R+2 score, putting this district in the swing category. After going for W Bush in 2004 by 2 points, the 3rd went for Obama by 5 points in both 2008 and 20012. In 2016, Donald carried the 3rd by 6 points (See Barone 14).
Hebron, Ct. native Tom MacArthur received his undergraduate degree from Hofstra University. He worked in the insurance industry and was chair and CEO of the York Risk Services Group. From 2011-2013, he served on the Randolph, NJ Town Council, and in 2013 became mayor (AP, 5/03/14). When the incumbent GOP 3rd CD representative decided not to run in 2014, MacArthur left Randolph and moved into the NJ 3rd . In the 2014 general election, MacArthur contributed over $5 million of his own fortune and won by 10 points. In 2016, he won with 60% of the vote (“Opensecrets.org,” nj.com/politics/index, NJ.com, Melisurgo, 11/08/16). Worth at least $30.8 million, MacArthur was the richest member of NJ’s congressional delegation (AP, 5/03/14, NJ.com).
MacArthur has a personal relationship with the Trump family that Donald played upon. MacArthur knew Trump’s late father Fred and handled his insurance for many years. MacArthur would ride in Fred’s car, going out with him to settle claims on many of the apartments Fred owned (Wash. Post, Snell, Costa, & O’Keefe, 4/28/17). MacArthur endorsed Donald in the 2016 presidential election. MacArthur was the only NJ Congressman to attend the GOP Convention that nominated Trump. In 2/2017, Cong. MacArthur voted against a resolution to have the House request 10 years of Trump’s income tax returns (NJ.com, indy100, 2/28/17, heavy.com/news, 4/26/17). As previously stated, MacArthur was co-chair of the “moderate” GOP Tuesday Group, but IMHO, he was a MINO, “Moderate in Name Only.” In the current 115th Congress, MacArthur voted with Demagogue Donald 94.6% of the time, in line with that of a “Southern-fried”/Rocky Mountain GOPer, but nowhere near that of a moderate (see projects.fivethirtyeight.com).
MacArthur had repeatedly called for repealing Obamacare (“Project Vote Smart”). Many GOP moderates had explicitly asked their leadership NOT to negotiate with the extremist “Freedumb” Caucus over health care. Cong. MacArthur was the only “moderate” involved in talks with this far-right caucus and often consulted with the White House and other GOP leaders. Many GOP moderates were shocked by MacArthur’s negotiating and catering to the “Freedumb Caucus” gang’s demands on repealing health care (See CNN, 4/28/17, Wash. Post, 4/28/17). MacArthur could care less that he did not listen to his own caucus or that 70% of Americans favored protection for pre-existing conditions (Wash. Post-ABC News, 4/2017 Poll). After MacArthur’s bill passed the House, he resigned as co-chair from his moderate Tuesday Group (politico.com, 5/23/17). MacArthur was also the only member of NJ’s congressional delegation to vote “AYE” on the top 1% Trump tax cut bill that passed in 12/2017. Other lawmakers criticized the harmful impact this bill would have on NJ taxpayers by raising taxes on many Garden State citizens (washpost.com, Kessler, 12/04/17, nj.com). When MacArthur stated that his constituents would not be hurt by cutting state and local tax deductions in this bill, the Washington Post fact-checker gave MacArthur “Pinocchio” or liar ratings for this comment (See washpost.com, Kessler, 12/04/17). Angry constituents at a 2017 town hall meeting berated MacArthur for his repeal Obamacare bill and tax cut vote (“The Hill,” Hellmann, 11/14/18).
In the 11/06/2018 midterm election, MacArthur’s Democratic opponent was Andy Kim. Kim (36), the son of South Korean immigrants, was born and grew up in Marlton, NJ, a Philadelphia exurb, and in Cherry Hill, NJ (huffingpost.com, Reilly, R., 11/14/18, 2.philly.com). A Rhodes Scholar with an international relations doctorate from Oxford University, Kim worked in Afghanistan advising Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. Kim worked In Obama’s White House on the National Security Council. Obama and the Asian & Pacific Islanders Rising & Empowering Political Action Committee (ASPIRE PAC) endorsed Kim as did Joe Biden (nbcnews.com, Hefler, J., 10/15/18, 2.philly.com). Kim said he decided to run for Congress in reaction to MacArthur’s efforts to repeal Obamacare (newstatesman.com, McBain, S., 10/30/18).
Initially considered a long shot against a well-known and super-wealthy incumbent, Kim kept hammering MacArthur for his key role in repealing health care and MacArthur’s top 1% tax cut vote. He made MacArthur, not Trump, the center of his campaign. Kim ran a campaign focused on protecting health care for all Americans as well as pushing for fair taxes for NJ families (See Martin, D.,11/15/18, shareblue.com, nytimes.com, Corasaniti,11/14/18). Throughout his district, Kim heard voters saying they wanted to have a new generation of leaders in D.C. Kim stated, “I hope to be part of that generation of leaders that can work in that type of way, showing that we can home in on issues across the board (Corasaniti, nytimes.com).”
Despite Kim’s NJ roots, the state GOP sent out a mailer to this largely white district featuring photos of fish heads on ice and Kim’s name printed in Chop Suey font (huffingtonpost.com, Reilly, 11/14/18). Get it? The Trump GOP wants “no Asian foreigners.” Fortunately, this bigoted dog whistle/bull horn failed. Kim defeated MacArthur with a boost from the suburban Burlington County Philadelphia area by 3,474 votes (nytimes.com, 11/15/18, huffingtonpost.com,Reilly).
With the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst military base located in his district, Kim stated he hopes to get a spot on the House Armed Services Committee. Kim pledged to work to roll back the $10,000 limit placed on state and local tax deductions by the 1% tax cut bill. He also plans to work with the rest of the state’s congressional delegation and NJ Dem. Gov. Phil Murphy to win funding for the Gateway rail tunnel project under the Hudson River (nytimes.com, Corasaniti, 11/14/18).
Kim will become the first Korean-American in 20 years to serve in Congress and will be part of the diverse group of Democrats constituting the House majority (shareblue.com, Martin, 11/15/18). And despite the pundits’ early night election chatter that there was no “Blue” wave, the facts on the ground proved them totally wrong. Two years ago, NJ’s congressional delegation had six Dems and six GOPers. In 1/2019 when the 116th Congress convenes, NJ will have eleven Dems and just one GOPer. Kim was part of that significant 11/2016 “Blue” tide (huffingtonpost.com, Reilly). Congratulations, Congressman-elect Kim and fellow Democrats!