Rep. Rush Holt (D)
New Jersey 12th District
It was once the main East Coast arterial highway, carrying the nation’s highest volume of truck traffic. Today it is crowded with cars taking high-salaried workers and clerical help to one of the East Coast’s thickest concentrations of office buildings in one of the bigger edge cities spawned in the 1980s. U.S. 1, which once just connected the industrial cities of Trenton and New Brunswick on its way from Philadelphia to New York, is better thought of now as connecting the university towns around Princeton and Rutgers, and as a locus of telecommunications and pharmaceutical research. This had been empty bucolic country, to be enjoyed by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s undergraduates from their Gothic Princeton towers. Now it is filled with post-modern office campuses, hotels, and restaurants.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 12th Congressional District of New Jersey meanders across the breadth of central New Jersey, from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. It extends several dozen miles on either side of U.S. 1 as it slices through Mercer and Middlesex counties. It is home to both an Englishtown and a Frenchtown. To the west, it takes in some of the rolling country of Hunterdon County. On the other side of U.S. 1, the 12th includes Princeton University and some modest-income suburbs—Franklin in Somerset County, East Brunswick in Middlesex County—and some fast-growing Monmouth County areas, such as Rumson, part of Middletown, and Holmdel. Monmouth, Marlboro, and Manalapan, all in the district, have been rated among the best small towns on the East Coast. Monmouth is undergoing a transition as the Army prepares to close the 1,100-acre Fort Monmouth in 2011. The 90-year-old research facility with 5,000 employees is in a busy commercial area, and will be redeveloped. The 12th had been represented for most of the 1990s by a Republican, but redistricting earlier this decade made it more Democratic.
Rep. Rush Holt (D)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: Oct. 15, 1948, Weston, WV .
Home: Hopewell Township.
Education: Carleton Col., B.S. 1970, N.Y.U., PhD. 1981.
Family: Married (Margaret Lancefield); 3 children.
Professional Career: Prof., Swarthmore Col., 1981-89; Asst. Dir., Princeton Plasma Physics Lab., 1989-98.
The congressman from the 12th District is Rush Holt, a Democrat first elected in 1998. He has an impressive political pedigree. His father, Rush D. Holt, was a favorite of United Mine Workers leader John Lewis, and was elected as the ‘‘boy senator’’ from West Virginia in 1934 when he was just 29. He had to wait until he turned age 30 in June 1935 to actually take the seat. But he clashed often with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and lost the Democratic primary to Harley Kilgore in 1940. Sen. Holt died when the young Rush was just 6 years old. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where his mother, Helen Holt, who had been West Virginia secretary of state, was an official in the Federal Housing Agency. He went off to Carleton College in Minnesota and to New York University, where he earned advanced degrees in physics and researched alternative energy, eventually becoming assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He later was an arms control specialist for the State Department. There can be no doubt he’s brainy: Holt is a five-time Jeopardy! champion.
|Rush Holt (D)||193,732||(63%)||($1,268,760)|
|Alan Bateman (R)||108,400||(35%)||($32,959)|
|Rush Holt (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (59%), 2002 (61%), 2000 (49%), 1998 (50%)
He got into politics in 1996, when Republican U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer ran for the Senate against Democratic Rep. Bob Torricelli. (Zimmer lost.) Holt ran for Zimmer’s seat and finished third in the Democratic primary. Conservative Republican Mike Pappas won the general election, but by only 50%-47%. Two years later, Holt came back for a rematch. It was 1998, the year of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. New Jersey was pro-Clinton, anti-impeachment territory, and Pappas made the mistake of taking the House floor to recite: “Twinkle, Twinkle Kenneth Starr, now we see how brave you are. We could not see which way to go, if you did not lead us so.” His ditty was replayed on network newscasts and incorporated into a Holt ad. It proved a liability, and Holt won 50%-47%.
In Congress, Holt has compiled a solidly liberal voting record. As the second research physicist in the House, he worked with the first research physicist in the House, Republican Rep. Vern Ehlers of Michigan, to promote science education and to give science equal standing with reading and math. (In 2008, Democratic Rep. Bill Foster of Illinois became the third physicist in the House.)
Holt is perhaps the House’s most prominent crusader on election reform, an interest sparked in part by a belief that his father’s close defeat in a bid for West Virginia governor resulted from ballot fraud. “One of my earliest memories is the talk in the family about votes being stolen and ballot boxes being found on the riverbanks,” he has said. He sponsored the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, which calls for an improved paper trail for electronic voting machines. But local election officials have objected to the cost, and Democratic leaders pulled his plan from the House schedule in 2007. He introduced a scaled-down version in 2008 that authorizes funding for states to buy the machines that produce paper trails.
On the House Intelligence Committee, Holt was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s reluctance to disclose more information to Congress. In 2007, he became chairman of the new Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, a hybrid group of members from the Appropriations and Select Intelligence committees. Although details of the panel’s work mostly remain behind closed doors, Holt has pressed for more vigorous review of intelligence-gathering. In 2008, he continued his call for a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Another of his interests is gun legislation, and he has sponsored an assortment of gun control measures, including one to require licensing and registration of all handguns (it attracted no co-sponsors). Locally, he has secured funding for open space and helped to get added protection for the lower Delaware River.
In his first bid for re-election in 2000, Holt faced a challenge from Zimmer, who won the Republican primary against Pappas, 62%-38%. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran $2 million in negative ads against him, and Zimmer acknowledged that the political terrain had changed. “There’s a cultural divide between the Northeast and what’s become the Republican base,” he said. “The world looks different from suburban New Jersey than it does from Texas.” Still, Zimmer was competitive against Holt. In one of the closest races in the nation that year, Holt won by a bit more than 1,000 votes.
In 2001, the new congressional district boundaries drawn in redistricting reduced the number of Republicans in the 12th. Holt has made this a safe Democratic seat.