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Key Midterm Election Races To Watch In New Jersey

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On this Election Day, we are spending time at polling places around the country as they begin to open. And right now, we're going to turn to New Jersey, where there are a couple key races to watch. This includes a House race in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District. Republican Congressman Leonard Lance is facing a challenge from Democrat Tom Malinowski. And WNYC's Nancy Solomon is at a polling station in that district, and she joins me now.

Nancy, good morning. And I heard the weather was not going to be great in New Jersey today. How bad is it?

NANCY SOLOMON, BYLINE: Good morning, David. It's pretty misty. It's not raining yet. It's cold. Excuse the train going by. But it is forecast to rain all day, which, of course, we know is not great for turnout.

GREENE: No. Well, how is turnout so far? I guess it's - what? - polls have been open for maybe 20 minutes or so.

SOLOMON: That's right. I'm at the Millburn Public Library (ph) in Millburn, N.J., and it's surprising. It is busy here. There are a lot of people coming to vote. They were here, parked in their cars, waiting to get in at 6 o'clock. And there's a steady flow. And I thought - oh, man, it's 6:20. I'm not going to have much to say to you.

GREENE: (Laughter).

SOLOMON: But I've actually been able to talk to five or six voters. They were all Democrats. They were all - their reason for voting is because they're upset with President Trump. And you know, this is the place I come when I'm looking for Republican voters and moderate voters. And it's surprising.

GREENE: Well, that's so interesting because, I mean, Leonard Lance has been the Republican congressman there. And it sounds like President Trump's election really, really changed things for him and the dynamic in his role in that district.

SOLOMON: Absolutely. This is the 7th Congressional District in New Jersey. It's suburban pretty much throughout except for - the far reaches are a little more rural. And it's a moderate district, and there's a long tradition of moderate Republicanism in New Jersey. And Leonard Lance was elected 10 years ago as a moderate. People in his district liked him. But over the years, there's been a drift, you know? We know that the Republican Party, of course, has become more conservative. The leadership is more conservative. And Lance has been marginalized in the party.

And so now you see this reaction to Trump. And what they wanted was for him to stand up to Trump. And there are a lot of voters. And they've been organized in ways we've really never seen here before, the level of grassroots activism that started as a Trump resistance movement and then became a flip-the-House-blue movement. And you know, you're talking about suburbs here. You know, we're not talking about radical folks. We're talking about middle-aged, middle-class, mostly white women who have been in this movement.

GREENE: So interesting - I mean, it sounds like that really is one of the races that, as we follow it, it won't mean something just for the district but could tell us a lot about the national narrative that we're going to see as this Election Day plays out. I love the sound of the commuter train going by. WNYC's Nancy Solomon - as polls are just opening in the state of New Jersey, she's in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District. And we'll be checking in on polling places throughout the morning.

Thanks so much, Nancy. Stay dry.

SOLOMON: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.