Ernest Scott Garrett (born July 9, 1959) is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 5th congressional district, serving since 2003. He is a member of the Republican Party. The district includes much of the northwestern portion of the state. He previously served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1990 to 2002.
Early life, education and career
Garrett earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from Montclair State University in 1981 and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Rutgers School of Law - Camden in 1984.
He served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1990 to 2002 representing the 24th legislative district, which covers all of Sussex County and several municipalities in Morris and Hunterdon counties.
U.S. House of Representatives
Garrett is considered the most conservative member of the New Jersey delegation, as he has received perfect 100 ratings from the American Conservative Union throughout his career.
He is regarded as a deviation from the norm in New Jersey, a state whose Republicans are generally more moderate in their views. In 2005, only 38 members of Congress nationwide and only two other members from Northeastern states — Bill Shuster and Joe Pitts, both from Pennsylvania — scored perfect 100s. New Jersey's five other Republican Congressmembers have ACU rankings ranging from 60 to 76.
Garrett is a staunch advocate of a federal prohibition of online poker. In 2006, he supported H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.
In 2008, he opposed H.R. 5767, the Payment Systems Protection Act (a bill that sought to place a moratorium on enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act while the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve defined "unlawful Internet gambling").
In July 2007, Congressman Garrett proposed an amendment to strike money in a spending bill for native Alaskan and Hawaiian educational programs. Congressman Don Young of Alaska defended the funds on the floor of the House, saying, "You want my money, my money." Young went on to suggest that conservative Republicans such as Garrett lost the Republicans their majority in the 2006 election by challenging spending earmarks, and made several critical remarks about the state of New Jersey. While Garrett did not ask for an official reprimand, other conservative Republicans took exception to Young's remarks that the funds in question represented his money.
Members of the Republican Study Committee gave Garrett a standing ovation later in the day during the group's weekly meeting.
Garrett led a drive to demand the immediate resignation of Governor Jim McGreevey after he admitted to an extramarital affair with a male state employee. McGreevey announced that he would stay in office until November 15, 2004. Had McGreevey resigned before September 8, 2004, there would have been a special election at the same time as that year's presidential election. Garrett started a petition on his campaign web site demanding a special election. According to his campaign manager, it received 10,000 responses.
Although Garrett promoted himself as a "mainstream tax-cutter that President Bush needs in Congress," he broke with the Bush Administration several times.
Garrett was the only congressman from New Jersey to vote against the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act for purposes of states' rights. Furthermore, he led nineteen US lawmakers to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives backing UN membership for Taiwan, contrary to U.S. policy since Nixon.
He also serves on the Liberty Caucus (sometimes called the Liberty Committee), a group of libertarian-minded congressmen. Other members include Ron Paul of Texas, Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Garrett was the only member of the New Jersey delegation to vote for oil and gas drilling off the shore of New Jersey.
Garrett was also the only member to vote against restrictions on "price gouging" by oil companies, to vote against child safety locks on handguns, and to vote against emergency funding for Hurricane Katrina victims. He was the only New Jersey member to vote against federal aid for household pets in case of a disaster. He was one of only four members of the House of Representatives to vote against an extension of unemployment benefits.
In November 2009, Garrett met at the United States Capitol with protesting "tea party" constituents. After birthers harangued him for several minutes, he agreed President Barack Obama should produce an original birth certificate to verify his eligibility to be President of the United States.
As a state legislator, he once proposed public schools teach intelligent design alongside evolution.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave Garret a grade of C- (2006) and B (2007–2008). Disabled American Veterans gave Garrett grades of 0% (2005, 2004), 50% (2003), and 100% (2006). The Veterans of Foreign Wars endorsed him in 2006.
Garrett ran for Congress unsuccessfully against incumbent Congresswoman Marge Roukema in the 1998 and 2000 Republican primaries, falling short both times with 48% of the vote. He received support from several groups who had long felt chagrin at Roukema's moderate voting record; Garrett had by this time established himself as one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly.
In 2002, Roukema opted not to run for a 12th term. Garrett won a contested five-way primary with 45% of the vote over State Assemblyman David C. Russo (26%) and State Senator Gerald Cardinale (25%), who had received Roukema's endorsement.
In the 2002 general election, Garrett faced Democrat Anne Sumers, an ophthalmologist and former Republican. Roukema did not endorse Garrett in the general election. This was very unusual for an incumbent of the same party, even though Garrett and Roukema had faced each other in bruising primaries in past years. However, she did not endorse Sumers either, even though part of Sumers' strategy was to portray herself as a "Roukema Republican" and win support in Roukema's old Bergen County base (Bergen County is the biggest county in the 5th district). Sumers' chances decreased significantly after she made several ill-advised comments about the U.S.-Taliban conflict on an Internet message board. The race essentially ended at that point, and Garrett won in a rout, 60% to 38%--even winning Roukema's former base in Bergen County.
Garrett was reelected in 2004 with 58% of the vote. He declined to debate his opponent Anne Wolfe, several times, claiming to have conflicts with his schedule in Washington D.C. Eventually he debated her twice. In 2006, Garrett defeated his Republican primary rival, Michael J. Cino of Bergen County. In the November 2006 election, Garrett defeated Paul Aronsohn (a former employee of the U.S. State Department during the Clinton Administration) and Independent R. Matthew Fretz to win a third term. However, in this election, he only won 55% of the vote—the lowest percentage for a Republican in the district since it assumed its current configuration in 1983. This was particularly remarkable since the current 5th was thought to be more conservative than the area Roukema represented for 22 years.
The 2006 election was close enough to attract the attention of the DCCC, who targeted the 5th District for a pickup in 2008. The Democrats nominated Dennis Shulman, a highly-respected rabbi and psychologist, as their nominee in 2008. Despite the Democrats' increased efforts, Garrett defeated Shulman 56%-42% in the 2008 General Election.
In 2010, Garrett easily defeated Tod Theise, receiving 65% of the vote.
Garrett is a member of Lafayette Federated Church in Lafayette, New Jersey.
December 14th, 2011