Elections 2022: The Battle for Congress
The November midterm elections will determine which parties take control over the House and the Senate, ultimately defining the fate of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
CAMDEN — The 1st Congressional District election is a rematch that is two years in the making for U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a Democrat, and Republican businesswoman Claire Gustafson.
Gustafson and Norcross respectively appear in the first and second columns on the Nov. 8 ballot. Additionally, there is one Libertarian Party and two unaffiliated candidates on the ballot.
The district includes all of Camden County, much of Gloucester County, and Maple Shade and Palmyra in Burlington County. Norcross is a Camden resident and Gustafson a Collingswood resident.
The district leans decidedly in favor of Democratic candidates, but Gustafson this summer made a public bet on herself. Gustafson lent herself $100,000 based on internal polling showing she was in a winnable race. Republicans are hoping President Joseph Biden’s polling negatives will be decisive in these mid-term elections.
Norcross is a former New Jersey state assemblyman and senator, with deep family ties to South Jersey politics and unions predating his first run for office.
An electrician by trade, he rose from apprentice to business agent at Local 351 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He is the brother of George E. Norcross, a prominent businessman and Democratic power broker in South Jersey.
Gustafson has dinged Norcross over his family connections, recently calling his brother the “head of a political cartel.”
Norcross joined the House of Representatives in November 2014. He won a special election to fill the unexpired term of Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews, who had resigned early that year.
Gustafson is a former member of the Collingswood Board of Education. In private life, her career has been in retail and children’s clothing as business owner and sales representative. She lost to Norcross in their first contest in 2020.
Norcross is endorsed by the Brady PAC, a gun control advocacy group, for his support of increased firearms regulation. The National Rifle Association gives him a zero rating, by contrast.
Norcross voted in June to pass the gun control-related Safer Communities Act, which includes money for states with “red flag” firearms confiscation laws, school program funding and creates federal criminal charges for illegally buying and selling weapons.
Gustafson calls for an end to “the assault on our Second Amendment,” saying the 2008 Supreme Court District of Columbia v. Heller decision settled the constitutional arguments in favor on individual rights. She opposes creating a national ownership registry.
Gustafson said research shows most mass shooters have mental health issues and that more preventative treatment is needed.
Discussing gasoline inflation, Norcross blames “corporate greed” and he proposed legislation in April to suspend the federal per gallon gas tax and to fine oil and gas companies.
Gustafson agrees with suspending the gas tax but criticizes Norcross for not doing more to stop the Biden Administration from canceling the Keystone XL fuel pipeline project. She says the pipeline decision cost not just jobs but access to oil, making the country vulnerable to overseas supply issues.
Gustafson also says gas prices were increasing rapidly well before the Ukraine-Russia war affected supplies, because of Biden Administration policies.
Norcross is a vocally pro-choice on abortion issues, including voting for the Women’s Health Protection Act. He referred to U.S. Supreme Court justices who wrote the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion decision as “extremists.” The Dobbs decision returned to state governments authority to set abortion policy.
Gustafson says Democrats have falsely framed abortion as a “reproductive” issue when effective contraception is readily available. She does agree with allowing abortion in the case of rape or a certain risk of death to the mother.
Norcross voted for the Inflation Reduction Act, saying it would lower prescription drug costs, aid green energy development, create jobs, and provide tax credits for buying electric vehicles. He also voted for the CHIPS and Science Act, which supporters say aids domestic manufacture of semiconductors and computer chips.
Norcross is a member of the LGBTQ plus Equality Caucus and supports New Jersey government policies related to public schools.
Gustafson wants parents to have more power deciding what public schools teach children and says “woke culture” has damaged public education. She also wants to expand school choice options.
Gustafson wants a border security wall completed to halt illegal immigration and smuggling. She says past immigration law “reforms” and amnesty have worsened the problem.
Norcross has called “absurd” claims that a border wall would address illegal immigration issues.
Other candidates for the seat are Allen J. Cannon of Titusville, who is unaffiliated, Isaiah Fletcher of Cherry Hill, who is a Libertarian; and Patricia Kline of Turnersville, also unaffiliated.
Cannon ran for the House in 2014 in the 12th Congressional District but lost.
Fletcher, who works for a water utility, stresses free speech protections and ending the “war on drugs” and treating drug use as a health issue.
Kline ran for the General Assembly from the 4th District in 2017 as a Republican. Her website indicates she is an adjunct business professor at Rutgers University and Rowan University.
Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey more than 30 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer for The Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.