Congress

Democrat Kim declares victory in New Jersey’s 3rd District


Andy Kim

Andy Kim made the announcement several hours after election officials in Burlington County had finished counting thousands of vote-by-mail ballots. | Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Democrat Andy Kim declared victory Wednesday evening over incumbent Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur in New Jersey’s hotly contested 3rd Congressional District, a race that remains so tight it still hasn’t been called by any major news outlets.

“We have built a substantial lead. I am proud to announce that we have won,” Kim told a group of cheering supporters in Mount Laurel, just outside of Philadelphia. “This, from the very beginning, was always about the people, about what we wanted to do for our families, what we can do for our communities, making sure we have a voice in Washington that looks out for all of us.

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“This is such a critical time for our country and what we need right now is a new generation of leaders that step up, serving the American people, to focus on what’s best for us, our families, our country — moving past this partisan gamesmanship and hyperpartisanship, healing these divisions that are out there right now. That is what I promise you. I will be part of that new generation of leaders that will step up and focus on what’s best for the American people.“

Kim‘s announcement came several hours after election officials in Burlington County, home to some of the district’s suburban communities, had finished counting thousands of vote-by-mail ballots.

The unofficial results showed Kim leading MacArthur, 148,580 to 145,958, a difference of about 2,600 votes. A number of provisional ballots must still be counted in Burlington and Ocean counties.

The 3rd District — which runs from the Jersey Shore, across the rural Pinelands and into the Philadelphia suburbs — is split almost evenly between a heavily Republican and pro-Trump area of Ocean County, and a more Democratic area of Burlington County.

If Kim is officially declared the winner, Democrats will have flipped four of the five New Jersey House seats Republicans controlled. Come January, Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) would be the only Republican in New Jersey’s 12-member House delegation and Democrats would control the most House seats they’ve held in New Jersey since before the start of World War I.

MacArthur, however, wasn’t ready to concede.

“I have always said that I will be guided by the voters of the district and there are nearly 7,000 more of them who haven’t been heard from yet,” he said in a statement Wednesday evening. “We must ensure that their votes — and all votes — are counted in a transparent way that protects the integrity of this election.”

MacArthur’s association with President Donald Trump had been front and center for the last two years, and anti-Trump sentiment was clearly the biggest factor in motivating those who supported Kim.

The millionaire former insurance executive embraced the president more closely than any member of the New Jersey House delegation.

MacArthur, 58, took a risky bet when he authored an amendment that revived the unsuccessful attempt to repeal Obamacare, getting the bill passed in the House before it died by a razor-thin margin in the Senate.

He came home to anger, but stuck by his guns, weathering an hours-long town hall in which be was berated by constituents worried they would lose their health care. Undeterred, he doubled down last year on his bet on Trump, becoming the only member of the state’s congressional delegation to vote for the Republican tax overhaul that includes a cap on state-and-local income tax deductions.

Kim, 36, a former Obama administration official who worked as a civilian adviser on Iraq and worked in Afghanistan, ran a campaign focused on MacArthur’s legislative record, while saying little about Trump on the campaign trail.

MacArthur, who moved to the district to run for Congress after serving as mayor of Randolph in North Jersey, accused Kim — who grew up in the district but spent most of his adult life in Washington — of not really living there.

MacArthur also went after Kim for allegedly embellishing his record, saying Kim held a more junior position as an adviser to General David Petraeus than he let on, and highlighting a Washington Post fact check that concluded Kim overstated the importance of an entry-level position he held in the George W. Bush administration.

If MacArthur doesn’t concede, it will still be days before the final result is known.

A new vote-by-mail law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Aug. 10 allows mail-in ballots received within 48 hours of Election Day to be counted, so more could arrive in the two counties by Thursday.

Joe Dugan, chairman of the Burlington County Board of Elections, said earlier Thursday the county still has a “large number” of provisional ballots that will take “at least a week” to count.

Those ballots were said to number into the thousands. Marie Peterson, assistant supervisor of the Ocean County Board of Elections, said the number of provisional ballots her office had received remained in flux.

“We obviously received a high volume of provisionals. I can’t give you a number yet,” Peterson said.

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