Primary Primer 1: Who's Who--Democrats


Democrats on the June 5 primary ballot. Top row: Tamara Harris, Mikie Sherrill and Mitchell Cobert. Bottom row: Alison Heslin and Mark Washburne.

It’s six weeks till Primary Tuesday. Do you know who’s on the ballot for the 11th District congressional race? Or what they’ve been saying about the issues? We’re here to help with Primary Primer, a series of posts providing a quick, informative look at the 11th District race.

Our first two installments cover the basic background on the candidates, Democratic and Republican. Future posts will outline what they’ve said about key issues.

Part 1: The Democratic candidates vying for the seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.  

Mikie Sherrill

Date declared: May 11, 2017

Lives In: Montclair

Background: A 1994 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Sherrill spent nearly a decade on active duty as a Sea King helicopter pilot before earning a law degree at Georgetown University. She also holds a Master’s in global studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A former federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, Sherrill early on declared a challenge to incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen, saying the 11th District needs “someone who will listen and fight back.” Her candidacy has attracted support from high-profile Democrats including former vice president Joe Biden.


Quote: “Our congressman is voting straight down the line with Donald Trump … I’m running for Congress because we can do better.” (Campaign announcement, May 2017)

Tamara Harris

Date declared: Aug. 13, 2017

Lives In: Verona

Background: A businesswoman and entrepreneur, Harris is also a former social worker and adjunct university instructor. Her business focuses on helping families deal with crisis and conflict resolution, and she has said that it is time for “a different sort of representation in Washington.” Harris grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, traveled widely in a career in international finance and switched into social work after the birth of her first child. She has received the endorsement of The Collective PAC, a D.C.-based political action committee that supports Black candidates seeking political office.


Quote: “We need people who are not career politicians, who have not been doing the same old, same old, but people who are saying, 'I know what it's like to work overseas, I know what it's like to start a business, I know what it's like to be poor.' " (NJ Herald, 3/8/2018)

Mitchell Cobert

Date declared: September 2017

Lives In: Morristown

Background: Born in Brooklyn, Cobert has lived in Morristown for more than 30 years, has served on various local boards, is a former New York assistant attorney general and a past president of the Morris County Bar Association. His private legal practice focuses on securities law, including cases involving help for victims of securities fraud. He has said he would emphasize a “common sense” and “common ground” approach to reaching solutions to key issues such as healthcare and infrastructure.


Quote: “You have to lead the way by building a consensus based on results.” (March 9, 2018)

Mark Washburne

Date declared: Nov. 8, 2017

Lives In: Mendham

Background: An avid runner, Washburne has been a political science and history professor at the County College of Morris for 25 years. He began seriously considering running a political race in the summer of 2017, feeling that Congress’ failure to provide oversight and accountability to the Trump White House is threatening the system of checks and balances integral to the Constitution. He has pledged to run his 11th District campaign without fundraising, relying on personal savings and support from followers sharing his message on social media.


Quote: “I want to be a check on our president. … Our country is going through a once-in-a-generation constitutional crisis.” (Daily Record, Nov. 8, 2017)

Alison Heslin

Date declared: February 2018

Lives In: Morristown

Background: An academic who trained as a research scientist and has studied political and economic sociology, Heslin was born in Morristown and raised in Sparta, according to her campaign-website biography. She describes herself in her Twitter profile as a “scientist, runner, unapologetic progressive.”


Quote: “As a policy maker, Alison is invested in addressing both environmental health and social inequality, protecting the natural environment and those most vulnerable to its damage.” (Campaign website)

Note: Two additional declared Democratic candidates withdrew earlier in the race: Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett and Jack Gebbia of Boonton.

Tomorrow in Primary Primer 2: Background on the Republican candidates in the District 11 race.