Fall Campaign Season Is Getting Underway in New Jersey

TRENTON (AP) -

In New Jersey and across the country, post-Labor Day marks the start of a sprint to Nov. 8 when Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump top the ballot.

New Jersey residents will also be picking their congressional representatives and deciding on expanding casino gambling to the northern part of the state.

Clinton enters the fall campaign against Trump as the strong favorite. New Jersey is a solidly Democratic state in presidential elections, with nearly 800,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. The latest poll, a CBS News survey taken in late May and June, showed that Clinton led 49 percent to 34 percent.

Clinton is also leading Trump in fundraising from the state. In the 2016 cycle to date, which includes the primary, Clinton has raised $6.7 million in New Jersey, compared with $902,000 for Trump, according to the Federal Election Commission. More recently, Clinton raised $595,000 in August, compared with $152,000 for Trump.

Despite Clinton’s lead, Trump has the backing of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has said he will do whatever he can to help Trump win.

The House race to watch is in northern New Jersey’s 5th District, where seven-term incumbent Republican Scott Garrett faces a strong Democratic challenge from former Bill Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer. The district includes parts of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.

The Democratic establishment in the state — perennially hopeful that Garrett can be beat — looks more optimistic this year. Gottheimer raised $577,000 from May 19 to June 30, beating Garrett’s haul of $235,000. Garrett’s campaign account with $2.8 million, though, is slightly larger than his opponent’s at $2.5 million.

Democrats are optimistic this year because of reports that Garrett declined to give to the House Republican campaign group because of moral issues. The reports spurred Democrats to call Garrett a bigot, but he has denied the reports. The reports are at the center of a 30-second political action committee ad targeting Garrett. Garrett’s campaign is running its own 30-second spot attacking Gottheimer as a supporter of higher taxes.

Voters in each of the state’s 12 congressional districts will be selecting representatives; there are no U.S. Senate contests this year.

Voters will also decide whether to expand casino gambling — currently confined to Atlantic City’s borders — to two yet-to-be-named locations in northern New Jersey. Advertising on the issue could top $40 million, which would set a record. Adjusted for inflation, the next-most-expensive ballot question was the 1976 referendum on allowing casinos in Atlantic City. That issue saw $5.6 million, adjusted for inflation, in spending.