House Speaker Paul Ryan campaigned for 11th District Republican Congressional candidate Jay Webber on Wednesday, seeking to boost the GOP in one of the nation’s most closely-watched Congressional races.
Webber, a state Assemblyman from Morris County, is in a tight race with Democrat Mikie Sherrill, in a district that ordinarily favors Republicans. The seat opened up in January after Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen decided not to seek a 13th term.
Webber’s race against Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor who launched her campaign eight months before Frelinghuysen exited, is drawing national attention as Democrats seek to pick up enough seats to win control of the House on Nov. 6.
Ryan is not seeking re-election and leaves office in January, but is campaigning on behalf of about two dozen Republicans.
“The rest of the country — we’re all counting on you, North Jersey, to deliver this man to the United States Congress,” Ryan told Webber supporters who gathered at a hotel in Hanover.
Ryan did not mention President Trump, with whom he has occasionally sparred, though he argued that Republican-backed policies were strengthening the nation.
“This is what is at stake,” Ryan said, adding, “You can see a person of character and integrity when you look at Jay Webber.”
Webber spoke before Ryan took the stage. He also didn’t mention Trump, opposed in polls by a solid majority of New Jersey residents, while indirectly praising his leadership.
“No one can look at the facts and say we aren’t winning in the country these days,” Webber said.
Ryan also repeated the “Montclair Mikie” jab that Webber has been directing at Sherrill, who lives in Montclair, though Montclair is part of the 11th Congressional District.
Sherrill issued a statement, about an hour before Ryan appeared, stating that Webber is “in lock step” with Ryan’s tax hike — a reference to the 2017 federal tax law that while lowering tax rates on some New Jersey residents also imposed the $10,000 cap on state and local deductions.
“It is not surprising that Assemblyman Webber would bring the architect of the tax hike bill to our community,” Sherrill said.
“Their record as career politicians pursuing an ideological agenda may bond Ryan and Webber, but they break with the majority of New Jerseyans who want their full state and local tax deduction,” Sherrill said.
The race between Webber and Sherrill is drawing national attention. Though Republicans have a voter registration edge in the 11th district, which includes the hometown of former Gov. Chris Christie, Sherrill is seen as having a real chance at winning.
Sherrill had a slight lead over Webber, 48 percent to 44 percent, in a Monmouth University Poll released last week.
Ryan was the latest high-profile to weigh in on the race — a list that includes Trump, who tweeted his support for Webber last month.
The 11th District includes parts of Morris, Essex, Passaic and Sussex counties.
In addition to the rally with Webber, Ryan was planning to hold private events with two other N.J. House Republicans — Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd District, who is facing Democrat Andy Kim; and Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th District, facing Democrat Tom Malinowski.
Staff writer Jonathan D. Salant contributed to this report.