Time to say so long to Rodney.
Career politician U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) is in his 12th term representing a solidly Republican district comprising five Sussex County towns—Byram, Hopatcong, Ogdensburg, Stanhope and Sparta—and Morris County, which has the highest concentration of Republicans in the state. He has risen to the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, arguably one of the most powerful offices in the nation.
He would seem to be invulnerable, which would explain why he can do what he does—such as refuse to meet face to face with voters, publicly admit he votes as he is told to by GOP leadership and—vote to deny healthcare to thousands of residents of his district—and still appear to be deaf to the noise of angry constituents figuratively banging on his office door.
But this time around his overconfidence might be misplaced.
Frelinghuysen did show one bit of nervousness, announcing he would vote against the first version of Trump/Ryan care to float in the house, a move that many say was in response to progressive activist groups like New Jersey 11th for Change, which have been hounding him since the last election.
At the time, Frelinghuysen said he was against the bill because the cuts in Medicaid it contained would hurt the people in his district.
His announcement was followed within hours by Paul Ryan deciding not to hold a vote on the bill, and angry Republicans, especially the far right of the party, charged Frelinghuysen with ruining their fun and suggested he be relieved of his powerful chairmanship.
So when the next incarnation of the bill came up, the Congressman faced a choice: still be against a bill that would hurt his constituents (this version would increase the number of uninsured in the 11th district by 74 percent and cut Medicaid by almost $840 billion), or vote to save his own political career. He chose the latter.
And that may be the tipping point as voters, more and more appalled by what is going on in our nation and more and more willing to hold their representatives accountable, tilt away from “screw your neighbor” politics.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted Frelinghuysen as one of 10 incumbents especially vulnerable in 2018 and has committed to an advertising campaign to promote a change in the next election. NJ 11th for Change, not even a year old, has grown into a Super PAC and is determined to fight Frelinghuysen and his right-wing agenda. Groups such as Stand Central NJ and Action Together New Jersey have Frelinghuysen in their crosshairs.
And his district was redrawn to include parts of Essex County, including the very not right-wing Montclair.
The last election showed that when it comes to tradition, all bets are off. That was bad news for Democrats in 2106, but when it comes to the 2018 choice of who should represent the 11th district in Congress, it could be very good news indeed.