TRENTON – After all the advertisements aired, money spent, hands shook and debates held, the congressional races to watch in New Jersey this week remain in the same pecking order they were after the primary five months ago.

The House seat most likely to flip parties remains the 7th District, which sprawls from Linden to Lambertville up to the Delaware Water Gap. It's a rematch from two years ago though on slightly shakier ground for two-term Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski.

“The district got a little bit more favorable toward the Republicans after redistricting, and Tom Kean Jr. has been running straight for the last two years,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship. “He just never stopped.”

In redistricting – the once-a-decade redrawing of the boundaries on the political map, to balance population counts from the Census – all or part of 11 towns were removed from the old 7th District. Malinowski won those towns by around 19,000 votes in 2020, in route to winning his race by 5,329.

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Thirty-one towns were added to the district – only six of which voted for the Democrat in their 2020 House race.

Dworkin said easily more than $10 million will be spent on the general election between the two candidates and independent expenditures. Add in the June primary and other outside spending, according to the group OpenSecrets, around $18 million has been spent in the district this year.

Democrats gained five House seats in New Jersey when Donald Trump was atop the Republican Party – one in 2016 and four in 2018. They lost one when Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched parties in 2020 and now are on defense, to varying degrees, in the other four.

Dworkin said several races in New Jersey seem to have gotten tighter over the last few weeks, none more than the 3rd District, where Democratic Rep. Andy Kim faces Republican Bob Healey.

“We still expect at this moment probably Andy Kim would be favored, but this is going to be a close race,” Dworkin said.

Representatives Josh Gottheimer in the 5th District, who faces Frank Pallotta in a rematch, and Mikie Sherrill in the 11th District, who faces Paul DeGroot, are also Democratic incumbents to watch, if it turns into a huge wave election.

“They’re probably a little bit safer, but this is going to be a good Republican year across the country,” Dworkin said.

“You have a Democrat in the White House who’s unpopular, relatively speaking,” he said. “You have high inflation and persistent inflation. And that makes for an electorate that wants to send a message and is looking for change.”

President Joe Biden’s approval rating in New Jersey was 46% in an October poll by Stockton University.

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All but two counties have seen houses go for more than the list price, on average, this year.

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