Mikie Sherrill, a two-term Democratic incumbent who centered her campaign around a promise to fight for abortion rights and help bring down inflation, was reelected to Congress Tuesday night, defeating her Republican challenger, Paul DeGroot. 

Just after 11 p.m., with about 70% of the ballots counted, The Associated Press declared her the winner with 58% of the votes to 42% for DeGroot.

Sherrill, who represents most of Montclair in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, was returned to Congress along with a fellow Democrat, Donald Payne Jr., who glided to an easy victory. 

Payne, whose 10th Congressional District covers the southeast portion of the town – by and large the Fourth Ward – was elected to a sixth term. He is part of a prominent New Jersey political family, having succeeded his father, Donald Payne Sr., who served in Congress for 23 years. 

On a night of tight congressional races across the country, Payne’s victory was declared by The Associated Press not long after polls closed at 8 p.m. By midnight, with 60% of the votes counted, he was registering 76% of the vote to 22% for David Pinckney, a Republican who was barely present along the campaign trail. Pinckney’s campaign even lacked a website.

By contrast, DeGroot, a former longtime Passaic County prosecutor, ran hard against Sherrill. Throughout the campaign, he portrayed himself as a “pragmatic conservative” and an “independent thinker.” Raised in a blue-collar household, with a firefighter for a father and a homemaker for a mother, he emphasized a passion for family values.

Much of the battle between him and Sherrill was rooted around the abortion debate. He supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, arguing that individual states should create their own laws on abortion. 

Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and Russia policy officer, spent much of her campaign vigorously assailing the Supreme Court’s ruling at local women’s rights marches and while debating DeGroot. 

The two candidates challenged each other on abortion access during their three debates, with DeGroot saying he was pro-choice despite his stance on Roe v. Wade and Sherrill questioning his logic. 

At one debate, Sherrill said DeGroot “can say he’s pro-choice, he can say the sky is green, that doesn’t make it true. Because when you are OK with states deciding, you are OK with 22 million woman in this country not having access to any sort of abortion, even for the life of a mother, for rape, for incest, and we’ve seen how that plays out.”    

On his campaign website, DeGroot criticized some teaching standards in the state, saying that he “opposes indoctrinating our students with leftist ideology” and that he “will work with parents to make sure our public-school curriculum teaches students marketable skills, not socialist propaganda.” 

Sherrill has called the struggle for abortion rights a “crisis moment” for the country. 

“I proudly voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act to provide statutory protection for reproductive health care for providers and patients and will keep pushing my colleagues in the Senate to codify Roe,” Sherrill said on her campaign website.

She put her differences with DeGroot in sharp terms. When a campaign video featured a registered nurse saying, “Women will die because of the policy that Paul Degroot supports,” her challenger went on a counterattack.   

DeGroot’s official YouTube channel posted a campaign video that referred to Sherrill as a “swamp creature.” Sherrill also ran on fair taxes and job security.  

On Sherrill’s campaign website, she said she wanted to tackle the high cost of living, bring in more tax dollars to the state, expand New Jersey’s skilled workforce and invest in infrastructure and small businesses. She has touted her support of several legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and more. 

“I’ve worked with members of both parties to achieve these goals since I first took office,” Sherrill’s campaign site says. “But more work needs to be done.” 

Payne cited a similar commitment to improving the economy. According to his campaign website, Payne wrote the House version of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the same legislation Sherrill voted for.

Moments after the win, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted congratulations to Sherrill on her reelection. “Congrats to @MikieSherrill on her win tonight in #NJ11,” Murphy said. “Mikie has been a strong partner in getting the Gateway Program back on track, working to restore the SALT deduction, and protecting the right to choose. Look forward to continuing our work together.”