Since March 4, 1933, a Republican held the congressional seat of New Jersey’s 5th District. The conservative region of left-leaning New Jersey had been a hedge against the state’s expanding progressivism. They’ve voted for Republican presidential candidates against their state’s preferences, siding with President Bush, John McCain, and even Mitt Romney. President Trump won the district in 2016.
But that year was bad news for Republicans in the district as Democrat Josh Gottheimer turned the seat blue for the first time in 84 years. He then won reelection in 2018, but faces a primary challenger this year as many Democrats have grown unhappy with Gottheimer’s actions in Congress. Democrat Arati Kreibich isn’t expected to defeat him, but even a hint of dissension in the ranks is concerning to the party.
They have other reasons to be concerned. A so-called “town hall” meeting Gottheimer reluctantly attended turned into a spectacle when he stormed out after learning a community journalist was in attendance. This prompted an article in The Intercept that detailed a history of abusive behavior towards staff members and peers.
Though the event happened in 2017, it wasn’t spread widely until 2019 after Gottheimer was reelected. Since then, he has displayed a trait some call his greatest skill: Fundraising. He’s able to get big donors to pour money into his campaigns. This makes selecting his opponent in November extremely important if Republicans have hopes of retaking the seat.
This is where Mike Ghassali comes in. He isn’t just the most accomplished of the nine candidates vying for the spot. He’s also the best fundraiser in the group. This will be absolutely necessary as Gottheimer is building up a war chest that will be challenging to overcome. Even if the national GOP gets heavily involved, the candidate they back needs to be self-sufficient with a track-record of success that earns the all-important Independent vote in the district.
The national focus will be on the presidential election, but taking back control of the House of Representatives is imperative for Republicans. President Trump’s ability to push forward his agenda hinges on who controls the House and Senate. If keeping control of the White House is priority 1, then retaking control of the House is priority 1a.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Ghassali and ask him some important questions about his campaign.
What makes you the most qualified to take on the Democrat in the general election?
I know how to win elections, I’ve won 8 elections, including 2 council races and two terms as mayor, my first term being elected with 70% of the vote in an area that is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. I’m a seasoned campaigner, I’m ready to fight, I won’t stop until we defeat Josh. There are no skeletons in my closet either. Josh and the Democrats can dig as deep as they want. They’ll find only a record of success, bringing jobs, businesses, and lowering taxes.
What does a primary challenger for Josh Gottheimer say about him?
That even his own party knows he has failed his constituents. Josh is known for lies and temper tantrums. He’s gotten nothing done in three years and he’ll continue to get nothing done if he’s rewarded with another term. We shouldn’t reward bad behavior or failed records.
If President Trump wins reelection, what will be your first legislative priorities?
Getting the full funding for the border wall, defunding sanctuary cities, fixing our disastrous healthcare system and immediate tax relief for working families who are suffering under Democrat leadership in high tax states like ours.
What are the most important issues for NJ-05 that can be solved in whole or in part by action in DC?
Increasing tax relief for middle class families, single parents, and our seniors on fixed incomes. Protecting our borders, and finally fixing our broken healthcare system.
What leader, past or present, had the greatest influence in crafting your political worldview?
Ronald Reagan. His beliefs of personal responsibility, powerful military, and smaller government put America on the path of being the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world. He was also a peacemaker. He was able to end the Cold War and help bring about the fall of communism.
What has been the biggest GOP failure the past three years that you would hope to correct if you go to Capitol Hill?
We need to fix healthcare, Obamacare is not working, costs are out of control, deductibles are ridiculously high, and there are not many options for people to choose from. We must come up with a plan that provides quality coverage, protects preexisting conditions, and is affordable for people.
What is the biggest threat the Democrats represent for NJ-05?
The danger of out-of-control Democrat spending in the state is forcing residents to leave in droves. Open borders are making our communities less safe by letting some dangerous people into the country who are protected by the Democrat policy of sanctuary cities. I was the first mayor to declare my town NOT a sanctuary city and will fight it in Washington as I did in Montvale.
New Jersey’s 5th congressional district is blessed with several Republicans running to take back the seat. But Mike Ghassali stands out for two reasons. His fiscal conservatism shines through and his record of winning will paint the seat red again.