New Jersey 6th District
For generations, great transportation arteries have brought people out of the huge central cities of New York and Philadelphia and into the flatlands and hills of New Jersey—to vacation, to raise families, to work toward affluence, and to build communities. The railroads of the late 19th century created the towns of the Jersey shore. After 1874, when the first train from New York City reached Long Branch, the shore became the summer home of seven presidents from Grant to Wilson (Garfield, convalescing after he was shot, died there in 1881) and of New York racehorse owners and socialites. But over time, the ambiance became honky-tonk, and the fishing pier and much of the boardwalk went up in flames in 1987. Only recently have developers sought to revive it. The great freight rail lines in the New York-Philadelphia corridor sparked electrical and chemical industries here. They built on the inventions of Thomas Edison, many of them produced in his Menlo Park laboratory just off the rail lines, where a 131-foot tower stands as a memorial to the inventor. The same corridor was the site of America’s first cloverleaf intersection, at the junction of U.S. 1 and U.S. 9, and of the intersection of two of America’s great post-World War II highways, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. The turnpike, now 12 lanes wide in stretches, roars past oil tank farms and petrochemical plants, major rail lines, Newark International Airport, and the oily waters of Raritan Bay. The parkway links leafy affluent suburbs with the Jersey shore.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District inelegantly ties together these great transportation nodes, and the upward mobility and economic progress that have taken place around them. The district is shaped something like an overturned capital F, with a long string of towns running from Piscataway to Sandy Hook, and two appendages running south: one along the Middlesex-Monmouth county line, the other along the Atlantic Ocean. Middlesex and Monmouth counties account for 90% of the district’s population. It includes the central core of Middlesex County: New Brunswick, Highland Park, Metuchen, Sayreville, and parts of Edison Township and surrounding communities—a heavy industry area that, since the time of Edison, has also housed some of America’s great research and development facilities, plus Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. In recent years, Edison Township has seen an influx of immigrants from India, many of them engineers and doctors.
The 6th also includes Monmouth County territory overlooking Lower New York Bay, with spacious estates on highlands above little port towns from Sandy Hook, home to the nation’s oldest operating lighthouse (1764), south to the mile-long boardwalk of Belmar. Between them are Asbury Park, founded as a Christian resort, immortalized by a Bruce Springsteen album, and now plagued by a high poverty rate; and Ocean Grove, founded in 1869 as a square-mile Methodist resort, still dry for teetotalers who throng to its 10,000-seat Great Hall, built in 1894. Ocean Grove also has the nation’s greatest concentration of Victorian homes. The shore has remained a summer vacation area that attracts millions, but it also hosts year-round communities, with their own upward-striving families. These are comfortable Democratic working-class bastions, wedged between heavily minority urban districts and upscale suburbia. In 2008, Barack Obama won this district 60%-38%.