Roy Cho Falls Short in New Jersey Congressional Bid


In the end, it wasn’t enough. Roy Cho’s energetic campaign to represent New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District came up short. Republican incumbent Scott Garrett easily defeated Cho, winning the election by about 12 percentage points.

A Monmouth University poll from mid-October had put the race at a statistical tie. Cho, a 33-year-old Korean American attorney with no previous political experience, had seized the advantage by attacking Garrett, who had claimed to have led efforts to procure federal relief for New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Garrett had been the only lawmaker from the Garden State to refuse to sign a pro forma letter asking for federal relief, which Cho said signaled Garrett’s reluctance to help his constituents.

That would prove to be the high water mark of Cho’s campaign. Garrett had a sizable fundraising advantage to Cho, with more than $3 million in his war chest. The suddenly engaged Garrett recognized Cho as a threat, and attack ads made hay of Cho’s recent move to Hackensack, into the 5th Congressional District, even as he voted in a subsequent election as a constituent of nearby Manalapan, Cho’s boyhood hometown. A poll last week, also from Monmouth University, showed Garrett with an 11-point lead. Garrett went on to win the race, 55.7 percent to Cho’s 43 percent. Third-party candidate Mark Quick earned 1.3 percent of the vote. Notably, 85% of Asian Americans in the district voted for Cho, according to exit polling from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.


In the end, despite redistricting in 2011 that added some Democrat-leaning areas, the 5th proved to be too solidly conservative to swing the race in Cho’s favor. But many praised the vigor of the newcomer’s campaign, and his fundraising prowess—including successful efforts to activate Korean American donors—did not go unnoticed by the national party.

In addressing his supporters Tuesday night, Cho would not say whether he plans to run again. He was quoted in The Record as saying, “I’m honored to have had your faith and support. I will not stop fighting.”

But some Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who handily won his re-election race Tuesday, have indicated they see a future run for Cho in 2016, a presidential election year, which tends to see greater voter turnout, especially among Democrats. It will no doubt be a crowded Democratic field four years from now, with many well-heeled and well-connected candidates expected to make a run for the seat. Cho’s experience in 2012 could help him stand out.

“The guy’s gotten so good,” Booker told The Record about Cho. “If he decides to stay in it and runs in the [presidential] election year, when instead of 40 percent turnout there’s 60 percent turnout, the guy has a really great shot. He’s impressed a lot of people around the state.”

Feature photo via Roy Cho for Congress