In New Jersey's 12th U.S. Congressional District, Democrat Rush D. Holt, Jr., a six-term congressman and rocket scientist, is facing Republican Scott Sipprelle, a relative political newcomer and investment banker from Princeton, N.J.
Candidates for New Jersey's U.S. Congressional District 12 (two-year term)
(Encompasses the cities of North Brunswick, East Brunswick and Ewing. Click here for a district map.)
Candidate: Rush D. Holt Jr.
Political experience: The son of former U.S. Sen. Rush D. Holt Sr., Rush D. Holt Jr. said he was inspired to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 because former House Speaker Newt Gingrich "got me mad enough that I wanted to do this." Holt failed to win his party's nomination in 1996, but he was more successful two year later, defeating Republican incumbent Michael Pappas in 1998.
Rep. Holt currently serves on the Committee on Education and Labor, the Committee on Natural Resources, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which has jurisdiction over the intelligence community, including the Director of Central Intelligence. Holt also serves as chairman of the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, which was created at the start of the 110th Congress in January 2007.
Professional experience: Holt attended Minnesota's Carleton College, earning his bachelor's degree in physics in 1970. Holt later received his master's. and Ph.D. from New York University in 1981. From 1981 to 1988, Holt taught physics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
Holt also served as a Congressional Science Fellow, working in the office of Rep. Bob Edgar (D-Pa.) from 1982 to 1983. Each year, the American Institute of Physics sponsors fellowships for two scientists who lend their scientific expertise to Congress. From 1987 to 1989, Holt was acting chief of the Nuclear and Scientific Division of the Office of Strategic Issues, a division of the U.S. Department of State.
Before his election to Congress in 1998, Holt served as assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a position he first took in 1989, and also holds a patent on a solar-energy device, which he filed in October 1979.
According to his official House of Representatives biography, Rep. Holt also is a five-time winner on the game show "Jeopardy!". In an interview with The New York Times after first winning his seat in Congress, Holt said he won "about $5,500 and a car."
Key issues: As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, Holt puts a strong emphasis on homeland security. For New Jersey residents, Holt also has worked to increase security on commuter trains.
Another key issue for Holt is the creation of new jobs. On his campaign website, Holt lists tax credits for small businesses and the creation of the New Jersey Technology Center as two ways he has contributed to job growth.
On the topic of health care, Holt voted for H.R.3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. On his House of Representatives website, Holt says that as a result of these health care reforms, families will have a cap on out-of-pocket expenses and seniors will see improved Medicare benefits.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Congressman Holt is well-positioned to keep his seat for a seventh term. Facing a first-time Republican challenger, Holt, with his membership on committees that oversee the intelligence community, is a strong Democratic contender and the person to beat in New Jersey's 12th Congressional District.
Candidate: Scott Sipprelle (challenger)
Political experience: A first-time political contender, Sipprelle is the son of former American diplomats Linda and Dudley Sipprelle, and he often traveled with them when he was a child. In an interview with "Forbes," Sipprelle said he "grew up in the emerging markets" and that such countries as Austria, Turkey, Sweden and Haiti were "all home to me."
Professional experience: A former managing director at Morgan Stanley, Sipprelle and partner Neil Barsky founded Midtown Research Group in 1998, according to Reuters. In 2002, the two men dissolved their partnership and Sipprelle started Copper Arch Capital LLC, a hedge fund that Sipprelle liquidated in November 2007.
Sipprelle also says he is the founder of Westland Ventures, an investment firm based in Princeton, N.J.
Key issues: On his campaign website, Sipprelle outlines what he calls his "pro-jobs agenda." Sipprelle advocates helping corporation reduce their tax and health care expenses as a way to encourage job creation and hiring. Sipprelle also wants to stem the flow of illegal immigration and create a path to citizenship for many foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities.
Sipprelle also puts a strong emphasis on national security, including strengthening U.S. border defenses. Sipprelle advocates "transforming the military" by doing more with less funding and making American allies contribute more resources to global security.
Endorsements: Sipprelle has secured an endorsement from Trenton City Council President and former Police Officer George Muschal
Chances of unseating Rush D. Holt Jr.: As a first-time candidate, Sipprelle faces an uphill battle in his effort to unseat Rep. Holt. The incumbent has a fairly impressive record in the educational world—his supporters put "My Congressman IS a rocket scientist" bumper stickers on their vehicles—and in Washington.
Sipprelle's investment banking background is impressive, though, but New Jersey voters may think he needs more political experience before he can take a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Key Differences between Rush D. Holt, Jr. and Scott Sipprelle
Though Holt and Sipprelle share similar goals, the incumbent's top issue is national security, which is reflected in his membership on several key intelligence committees. Sipprelle's platform reflects his strong financial background, encouraging smarter government spending and less waste.
New Jersey's 12th U.S. Congressional District
Location: Located in the central portion of the state, NJ-12 contains portions of the city of Trenton.
2008 Results: Holt defeated challenger Alan Bateman 62.5 percent to 36 percent.
Demographics: According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey (ACS), this population of this district falls into the following groups: 74.3 percent white, 12.3 percent black, 0.8 percent American Indian or Alaska native, 4.4 percent Asian and 0.1 percent native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, New Jersey's 12th Congressional District is rated D+5, indicating a moderately strong Democratic lean in this district.