MORRIS COUNTY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A Congressional race in New Jersey is captivating voters nationwide and drawing the attention of President Donald Trump.

The race could prove to be pivotal in Democatic efforts to regain the majority of the House of Representatives.

Former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill is taking the 11th Congressional District race to new heights. She’s a Democrat competing with Republican State Assemblyman Jay Webber for a seat long held by the GOP.

“I think it’s critical that we get new leadership in Congress,” Sherrill said.

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring after almost 25 years in office. Webber, who served in the state legislature for a decade, hopes to succeed him.

“I’m a conservative, a patriot, a husband and a father of seven,” said Webber. “I love the country and I want to serve it.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Vice President Mike Pence and White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway have all campaigned for Webber.

Trump tweeted Webber is “doing a great job against a person who is looking to raise taxes substantially.”

However, it’s last year’s federal tax reform that’s a focal point of the race.

Homeowners now face a $10,000 cap for a popular federal income tax deduction, known as the state and local tax, or SALT.

“The number one thing right now for us, as far as federal taxes, is to get back our ability to deduct our state and local taxes, to not be double taxed,” said Sherrill.

“I would try to eliminate it or raise it, but that’s only one tenth of a bill that had a lot of good things,” Webber said.

Another issue: Infrastructure. Both candidates want to see funding for the Gateway Tunnel project, but how will they get it?

“The Gateway Tunnel is a high priority for me,” Webber said. “I think I can get it done. Certainly I have a much better chance than my opponent of getting it done.”

“We also have to look at other ways, public-private partnerships, and how we’re going to move forward to make sure we get this tunnel done,” Sherrill said.

For decades, the district has had more registered Republicans than Democrats, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported. Political experts, however, say this election could be a game changer.

Political science professor Dan Cassino of Farleigh Dickinson University says Webber is losing in the polls because of his association with Trump.

“It seemed like Democrats would have a really hard time,” Cassino said. “But this is really considered to be the forefront of the ‘blue wave’.”

He says the driving force behind Sherrill is a citizens group and she’s out-raised Webber four to one.


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