Rep. Chris Smith (R)
New Jersey 4th District
An invisible and not-well-defined line divides North Jersey and South Jersey. North of the line people watch New York television stations, eat hero sandwiches, and root for the Yankees. South of the line they watch Philadelphia television, eat hoagies, and root for the Phillies. The state capital of Trenton lies south of the line, which passes east somewhere around Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari in the Pine Barrens and heads southeast past Lakewood and Bricktown to the little village of Mantoloking on the Jersey shore. But on both sides of the line a stronger New Jersey identity has developed over the last two decades. The big cities—New York and Philadelphia—are not all that close, particularly when traffic is heavy, which is often. And the economy of central New Jersey has its own special character, with big pharmaceutical companies and Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. New Jersey politics is also centered in Trenton. The city has been a manufacturing mecca since the 19th century, with the Lenox and Boehm china factories and the old Roebling ironworks, which produced parts for many of our great bridges (hence the sign on a span across the Delaware River that boasts, “Trenton Makes, the World Takes”). But much of this area is also spanking new, with growing subdivisions just west of the shore and office buildings stretching north from Princeton. Even Trenton has had some growth. Preservationists are eyeing its antique buildings and, long the only state capital without a hotel, it now has the Marriott Lafayette Yard Conference Hotel.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of New Jersey covers much of the central part of the state. It stretches from the eastern part of Trenton to Mantoloking, Point Pleasant, Sea Girt, and Spring Lake on the shore. The district includes the old colonial town of Burlington on the Delaware River and the new spacious subdivisions of Colts Neck just west of the shore, as well as what was Lakehurst Naval Air Station, where the German zeppelin Hindenburg exploded while docking in 1937. Population movement has been eastward, away from the old neighborhoods of Trenton and its close-in suburbs and toward the new subdivisions of coastal and exurban Ocean County, which grew 10% from 2000 to 2007. Some towns have curtailed sprawl with laws to preserve farmland and open space. Politically, it is a mixed bag. The Trenton area has long been solidly Democratic, but the Pine Barrens and Jersey shore have leaned Republican. George W. Bush won this district 56%-44% in 2004, and Republican John McCain won it four years later with 52% of the vote. Democrat Barack Obama got 47% in 2008.
Rep. Chris Smith (R)
Elected: 1980, 15th term.
Born: March 4, 1953, Rahway .
Education: Trenton St. Col., B.S. 1975.
Family: Married (Marie); 4 children.
Professional Career: Sales exec., family–owned sporting goods business, 1975–80; Exec. dir., NJ Right to Life, 1976–78.
The congressman from the 4th District is Chris Smith, a Republican first elected in 1980. Smith grew up in the Trenton area, worked in his family’s sporting goods business, and, after graduating from college, became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee in 1976. Four years later, he ran for the House in a Trenton-centered 4th District and defeated 26-year Rep. Frank Thompson, a Democrat convicted in the Abscam bribery scandal. Now tied as the sixth-most-senior House Republican, Smith is a youthful-looking lawmaker who brings passion to his pursuit of conservative causes, sometimes as a maverick within his party. He won passage of 30 bills from 1991 to 2008, the fifth-largest number for any member of Congress during that period.
|Chris Smith (R)||202,972||(66%)||($1,076,919)|
|Joshua Zeitz (D)||100,036||(33%)||($481,166)|
|Chris Smith (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (63%), 1998 (62%), 1996 (64%), 1994 (68%), 1992 (62%), 1990 (63%), 1988 (66%), 1986 (61%), 1984 (61%), 1982 (53%), 1980 (57%)
He is best known for his fight against legalized abortion. Smith has worked to stop abortions in military hospitals, and he persuaded the Bush administration to reinstate Reagan-era restrictions that denied federal funds to family planning organizations that promote abortions abroad. (In 2009, new Democratic President Barack Obama rescinded the restrictions during his first week in office.) Smith was a prime mover of legislation to ban “partial-birth” abortions. He has fought not only Democrats but also the House Republican leadership on the abortion issue. In the 2002 bankruptcy bill, he took exception to a provision that prevented the dropping of court-imposed fines levied against abortion protesters in the event of bankruptcy. Smith rounded up a group of like-minded Republicans who threatened to vote no on the bankruptcy bill unless the provision was removed. The abortion section was ultimately stripped out, and the bill passed the House. As retribution for his protest against the bankruptcy legislation, GOP House leaders stalled Smith’s bill to provide loans to small businesses in developing countries.
Smith has long crusaded for his Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require doctors to inform pregnant women that some experts say that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation. When Republicans were in the majority, the bill never advanced out of committee, and it is even more unlikely to get to the floor with Democrats in control of the House. Smith also has a bill to revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortifacient RU-486, which Smith calls “baby pesticide.” Smith has opposed federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses excess embryos from in vitro fertilization, but he has been a champion of other stem-cell research. In 2005, Congress enacted his Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act, which provides $265 million for research and therapy using umbilical cord stem cells and cells from bone-marrow transplants.
Smith has brought his strong moral views to his work against human-rights abuses abroad. He has sharply criticized China for its forced sterilizations and abortions, and its persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. As a result, he opposed normalizing trade relations with Beijing. Smith has condemned Russia for barring entry of foreign Catholic priests, and he criticized the Saudis for treating foreign servants as slaves. In 2000, Congress enacted his legislation to combat sex trafficking around the world, including requiring yearly reports on each nation’s record. In 2005, he won passage of $361 million for prosecution of domestic trafficking and to compensate victims of trafficking. At one point, Smith learned of Ukrainian girls being held against their will in brothels in Montenegro; he personally called the Montenegran prime minister, who ordered a raid on the operation.
After Democrats took over Congress in 2007, Smith became the ranking member of the renamed Africa and Global Health Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee. On the eve of the Olympics in July 2008, Smith tried to meet human-rights lawyers in Beijing, but they were placed under house arrest. He fought to require greater disclosure of censorship by Internet companies in their dealings with China and other repressive governments, and he unsuccessfully urged President Bush not to attend the Olympic opening ceremonies. “I’m not against the Olympics. I love sports, but not there,” he said. In August 2008, he traveled to Tbilisi in the Georgia Republic and helped to rescue two young New Jersey girls who were at risk during the Russian invasion there. In 2005, Smith won passage of a bill doubling U.S. contributions to international peacekeeping efforts, to support of democracy in Haiti, and to permanently fund Radio Free Asia.
Smith’s tendency to buck his party for the sake of his beliefs was best illustrated by events in 2005, when Republicans still controlled the House. As chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Smith angered budget conservatives by pushing generous government benefits for veterans, including increasing disability payments by $2.5 billion and GI Bill spending by 46%; $1 billion in aid to homeless veterans; and an additional $100 million in health care benefits for surviving spouses of veterans. In 2004, in a major breach of party protocol, he voted against the Republican-drafted budget and for the Democratic spending plan because it contained more money for veterans. In early January 2005, the GOP leadership had had enough. The Republican Steering Committee booted Smith from his committee chairmanship and gave it to Steve Buyer of Indiana. Veterans groups expressed outrage, to no avail. But Smith’s warnings that veterans programs were being underfunded proved true that June, when Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced that the department had underestimated the number of returning Iraq war veterans by a factor of four and that it needed an additional $2.6 billion.
Smith’s devotion to principle and his reputation for tending to constituent problems have made him popular in the politically marginal 4th District. Since 1984, he has received at least 61% of the vote in easily winning re-election. In 2008, Democratic challenger Joshua Zeitz, a first-time candidate, accused him of being a resident of Virginia because Smith owns a home in the Old Dominion and his daughter paid in-state tuition there. Smith rents a town house in Hamilton Township, N.J. He was re-elected 66%-33%.