In one of the few pieces of good election news for Democrats, anti-gay U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) has lost his bid for re-election after refusing to pay his dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) because it had previously backed openly gay Republicans for elective office.
Garrett, who has served in the House since 2003, has long been a target for Democrats, who in previous campaigns tried to paint him as too conservative for the district or as out of step with the rest of the New Jersey congressional delegation, including his fellow Republicans. But after Garrett’s comments on why he refused to pay his NRCC dues were published by Politico, the money Garrett was used to receiving from Wall Street donors dried up, reports The Huffington Post.
Garrett, whose district encompasses some of New York City’s closest suburbs, has long relied on the financial industry for support come election time. He is a fierce advocate for financial deregulation, and chairs an influential House financial services subcommittee. But top donors began to reconsider their support after Garrett’s remarks disparaging gays came to light.
Since the story broke, Garrett has clarified that he doesn’t oppose gay people running for office, but believes the GOP should not support candidates who back same-sex marriage. Sensing blood in the water, national Democrats pounced, hitting Garrett repeatedly over his opposition to any LGBT rights. They even flew an airplane banner over the Jersey Shore over the July 4 weekend to highlight Garrett’s anti-gay record.
Replacing Garrett will be Josh Gottheimer, a former Clinton administration speechwriter and advisor to several Democratic presidential campaigns, who previously worked for Ford Motor Company and Microsoft. By defeating Garrett, Gottheimer becomes one of just a handful of freshman Democrats who were victorious despite Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s overwhelming victory on Tuesday. It also makes Gottheimer a top GOP target in 2018, as the district has not sent a Democrat to Congress in more than 30 years.
Garrett conceded to Gottheimer on Wednesday afternoon, after initially vowing to contest the race until approximately 20,000 outstanding mail-in ballots had been tallied.
“While the results of this election were not what I had hoped for, I am proud of the race we ran — we stayed the course and kept the faith,” Garrett said. “We are charged to pray for our nation’s leaders, and we are doing that now.”