A defeated Republican congressman has so far refused to communicate with the Democrat who beat him, raising concerns that constituent issues handled by his office will fall through the cracks when his successor is inaugurated.
Congressman-elect Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) has tried and failed to communicate with his ousted opponent, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), according to a report published Monday in The Record, a local newspaper in Northern New Jersey.
“I called him,” Gottheimer told The Record last Thursday. “I sent him a letter before Thanksgiving both thanking him for his service as well as asking him to meet to discuss the transition. My chief also reached out to his chief of staff. We just haven’t heard back.”
The offices of Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also hadn’t heard from Garrett’s office, according to the same report, though a spokeswoman for Menendez said that his office had begun hearing from Garrett’s constituents.
“They say they were told Garrett’s office is not taking any new cases and they’re telling constituents to contact Sen. Menendez or Sen. Booker,” Tricia Enright told The Record.
Gottheimer defeated Garrett by a 10,000-vote margin at the end of a bitter race which saw millions of dollars in election spending by both candidates, as well as millions in outside spending from Democratic and Republican groups and other super PACs.
In July 2015, Politico published an anonymously-sourced report that Garrett had not paid membership dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee because they would be used to support gay Republican candidates. Garrett called that report a “fabrication” in March of this year, but maintained that he would only support candidates who advocated for “traditional marriage.”
In October, Garrett held a campaign fundraiser organized by the regional coordinator of New Jersey Oath Keepers, which the state considers a “domestic terrorist threat.”
Brad First, president of the Congressional Management Foundation, which contracts with the the House of Representatives to train new members of Congress, told The Record that it had been 10 years since he had seen a similar lack of cooperation between outgoing and incoming representatives.
The silence from Garrett raises concerns about his unresolved constituent services requests, including those in which his office has constituents’ original copies of legal documents. Gottheimer also told The Record that he had wanted to consult Garrett about the cost efficiency of various local congressional office locations.