Rep. Leonard Lance (R)
New Jersey 7th District
The transportation arteries beneath the First Watchung Mountain played a large role in New Jersey’s development. The rail lines of the late 19th century opened up commuter suburbs. In the 1940s, the four lanes of U.S. 22 made those communities readily accessible by car. And finally, Interstate 78, completed in the mid-1980s, put Newark only an hour’s distance from the Pennsylvania line. The interstate stimulated the development of an edge city called Bridgewater Commons halfway between Philadelphia and Manhattan. An enormous shopping mall and office developments, which included the headquarters of AT&T, rose up in the horse country around Far Hills and Bernardsville, where the likes of Malcolm Forbes and Charles Engelhard owned huge estates. (New Jersey claims more horses per square mile than any other state.) These towns are in Somerset County, with a median household income in 2007 of $97,658, the fourth highest among U.S. counties.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of New Jersey, with its contorted boundaries, covers these several generations of suburban development. It ranges across the breadth of the state, from the edge of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley in the west almost to Staten Island in the east. It is an agglomeration of places, not a district with a distinct character. The 7th includes parts of four counties, and parts of Edison, Woodbridge, Bridgewater, Linden and Union. Edison has become a cultural melting pot in recent years, with a majority nonwhite population; it is 36% Asian, 9% African-American and 7% Hispanic. The district’s easternmost points are in Union County, just shy of Newark International Airport. It includes Summit, Scotch Plains and North and South Plainfield, but not heavily Democratic Plainfield. It follows I-78 and the Watchung Mountains to western Somerset County. It takes in fast-growing Hunterdon County, where the county seat of Flemington was the site of the “trial of the century” for the kidnapping and murder of the 20-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. There is, of course, a political imperative behind the weird shape of the district. It was designed as part of a bipartisan incumbent-protection plan, and it put heavily Democratic areas into the adjacent 12th, 6th and 10th Districts, while moving Republican areas formerly in those districts to the 7th. Republican President George W. Bush won comfortably here by 53%-47% in 2004, but in 2008, Democrat Barack Obama won, though by a much narrower margin, 1,968 votes. Obama got 49.7% to Republican John McCain’s 49.1%.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: June 25, 1952, Easton, PA .
Home: Clinton Township.
Education: Lehigh U., B.A., 1974; Vanderbilt U., J.D. 1977; Princeton U., M.P.A. 1982.
Family: Married (Heidi Rohrbach); 1 child.
Elected office: NJ Assembly, 1991-2001; NJ Senate, 2002-08, minority leader 2002-08.
Professional Career: Law clerk, Warren Cnty Court, 1977-78; Asst. cnsl., Gov. Thomas H. Kean, 1983-1990.
The new congressman from the 7th District is Leonard Lance, a Republican elected in 2008 to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Mike Ferguson. Lance’s English-German ancestors have lived in Hunterdon County for 300 years, and he and his twin brother, James, grew up there in the small town of Glen Gardner. Politics is in Lance’s blood. His father, Wesley Lance, was a state senator and eventually rose to Senate president. The younger Lance went to Lehigh University in neighboring Pennsylvania, then headed south to Vanderbilt University to go to law school. He returned to New Jersey to pursue a master’s degree from Princeton University. One of his early jobs was as Republican Gov. Thomas Kean’s assistant counsel for county and municipal matters. In 1990, he was elected to the New Jersey Legislature, where he made a name for himself as a budget hawk and independent thinker. He is fond of saying, “I am New Jersey’s leading opponent of borrowing without voter approval,” and his record bears that out. In 2004, when he was the state Senate minority leader, Lance successfully sued Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevy over a plan to borrow from public coffers to close a budget gap. When he was in the state Assembly, he opposed a spending plan by GOP Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a move that cost him the Budget Committee chairmanship. He was known by fellow legislators as a workhorse with a pragmatic streak. In many respects, he is a prototypical Northeastern Republican: fiscally conservative but socially moderate. He supports abortion rights and calls himself an “Eisenhower Republican.” He tends to favor bipartisanship over ideology.
|Leonard Lance (R)||148,461||(50%)||($1,419,698)|
|Linda Stender (D)||124,818||(42%)||($2,621,407)|
|Michael Hsing (I)||16,419||(6%)||($213,817)|
|Leonard Lance (R)||10,094||(39%)|
|Kate Whitman (R)||5,052||(20%)|
|P. Hatfield (R)||3,902||(15%)|
|Martin Marks (R)||3,211||(13%)|
|Tom Roughneen (R)||1,845||(7%)|
In 2006, Ferguson narrowly won re-election to his fourth term, beating Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender by just under 3,000 votes. Facing a 2008 rematch against Stender, Ferguson announced his retirement in November 2007, leaving the GOP field wide open. Well-known in the district, Lance announced his candidacy in January 2008, joining six other candidates. Lance was the establishment Republicans’ pick and considered the frontrunner, but he faced tough competition from Whitman’s daughter, Kate Whitman, who outraised him and questioned his fiscal bona fides. He was forced to spend nearly all of his funds early on, yet he won the primary by a surprisingly large margin, besting Whitman 39%-20%.
Drained by the primary, Lance started the general election campaign seriously outmatched by Stender in fundraising. By midsummer, he had collected $485,000 compared with her $1.6 million. Stender criticized Lance for opposing her legislation to make it mandatory for pharmacies to fill prescriptions for birth-control pills, including emergency contraception. Lance said he voted against the bill because he believed that mom-and-pop pharmacies should have the right to decide whether to fill such prescriptions. Both political parties pulled out all the stops for this seat. President Bush stumped for Lance and helped him raise money, but that seemed to give Stender more ammunition to assert that Lance was a clone of the unpopular outgoing president. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton both came to the district to campaign for Stender. But Lance got a boost from the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper, which gave him a glowing endorsement and called him “that rarest of birds, an old-fashioned, thrifty, genuinely moderate Republican. He is a thoughtful, principled lawmaker with a knack for bipartisanship.”
Stender outspent Lance nearly 2-to-1— $2.6 million to $1.4 million. But Lance did better than expected, winning by 50%-42%. Once in the House, he was appointed to the Financial Services Committee.