Chris Smith (New Jersey Politician)
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Chris Smith New Jersey Politician
Chris Smith
Chris Smith official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th district

January 3, 1981
Frank Thompson
Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee

January 4, 2001 - January 3, 2005
Bob Stump
Steve Buyer
Personal details
Christopher Henry Smith

(1953-03-04) March 4, 1953 (age 68)
Rahway, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (1978-present)
Other political
Democratic (before 1978)
Marie Hahn
(m. 1977)
EducationThe College of New Jersey (BS)
WebsiteHouse website

Christopher Henry Smith (born March 4, 1953) is an American politician serving his 21st term as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 4th congressional district. Though it has taken various forms, his district has always been situated in Central New Jersey. It currently includes portions of Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean counties.

Smith is the dean of New Jersey's congressional delegation.[1] He has focused much of his career on promoting human rights abroad, including authoring the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 and several follow-on laws. Smith has used his leadership positions, including chairmanships, to author multiple pieces of legislation focused on human rights[2] and conduct aggressive oversight of human rights abuses,[3] actions that have earned him scorn from abusing nations.[4]

Early life, education, and early career

Smith was born in Rahway, New Jersey, on March 4, 1953.[5] He attended St. Mary's High School in Perth Amboy, where he competed athletically as a runner and wrestler.[6]

After graduating with a B.A. from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey), Smith worked in his family's sporting goods business.[7] In the 1976 election cycle, he managed the Democratic primary challenge of Steven Foley, an attorney and anti-abortion activist, against incumbent Senator Harrison Williams; Foley received about 15% of the vote, losing to Williams.[7] In 1978, Smith switched to the Republican Party,[8] and became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee, a part-time role.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives

Smith with President Ronald Reagan in 1985



In 1978, while working at his family's sporting goods store, 25-year-old Smith ran for Congress as a Republican. He lost to longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Congressman Frank Thompson 61%-37%.[9][10]


In 1980 Smith ran against Thompson again. Initially, Smith was thought to have a very slim chance of winning, but Thompson was indicted as part of the FBI's Abscam probe.[8] With the race now considered competitive, Republicans considered replacing Smith, but two alternative candidates seen as more competitive, Hamilton mayor John K. Rafferty and 1978 Senate nominee Jeff Bell, declined.[7] Helped by Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district, Smith defeated Thompson 57%-41%.[11]


In 1982, Smith's district was redrawn to include more Democratic voters[7] and his Democratic opponent was former New Jersey Senate President Joseph P. Merlino, who had run a competitive campaign for governor the year before. It was widely assumed that Smith's 1980 victory over the scandal-plagued Thompson was a fluke, and that he would lose to Merlino.[7] At the end of one of their debates, Smith approached Merlino to exchange pleasantries. Merlino was quoted as saying "Beat it, kid." Smith defeated Merlino with 53% of the vote.[12][13]

Subsequently, a federal court found the 1982 redistricting was impermissible gerrymandering, and Smith's district was redrawn to more closely resemble the one used in 1980.[7][14] He has not faced another contest that close since.


From 1984 to 2016, Smith won reelection with over 60% of the vote.[7]

In 2006, Smith's 66% was the highest percentage for any Republican in the New Jersey delegation.[15]

In 2008, Smith defeated college history professor Joshua M. Zeitz, 66%-32%.[16]

Former Speaker John Boehner, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressmembers Nita Lowey and Chris Smith meet the Tibetan leader 14th Dalai Lama in 2011

In 2010, Smith received 69.4% of the vote, ahead of Democratic nominee Howard Kleinhendler, Libertarian nominee Joe Siano, Green Party nominee Steven Welzer, and American Renaissance Movement nominee David Meiswinkle.[17]

In 2018, Smith defeated Democratic nominee Joshua Welle with 55% of the vote to Welle's 43%. Smith was the only Republican to win a congressional race in New Jersey that year, reducing the GOP to its smallest presence in New Jersey's House delegation since 1918. This was Smith's closest election since 1982.

In 2020, Smith defeated Democratic nominee Stephanie Schmid.


Smith was ranked the 17th most bipartisan member of the House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress (and the second most bipartisan from New Jersey) in the Bipartisan Index by the Lugar Center.[18]

In November 1997, Smith was one of 18 House Republicans to co-sponsor a resolution by Bob Barr that sought to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Bill Clinton.[19][20] The resolution did not specify any charges or allegations.[20] This was an early effort to impeach Clinton, predating the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. That scandal led to a more serious effort to impeach Clinton in 1998.[21] On October 8, 1998, Smith voted in favor of legislation that was passed to open an impeachment inquiry.[22] On December 19, 1998, he voted in favor of all four articles of impeachment against Clinton (only two of which received the needed majority of votes).[23][24][25][26]

It was revealed in October 2015 that intern applicants for Smith's office were required to rate "27 different personalities, organizations and political issues to indicate whether they tend to agree with them, disagree with them or have no opinion or knowledge of them." Personalities and organizations included Rachel Maddow, the Pope, Planned Parenthood, and The National Right to Life Committee.[27]

Smith has been nominated and confirmed twice to serve as a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015 for the 70th session[28] and by President Donald Trump in 2017 for the 72nd session.[29][30]

Smith voted against both articles in the first impeachment of Donald Trump, and the sole article of the second impeachment of Donald Trump.[31][32][33]

On February 4, 2021, Smith voted with 10 other House Republicans and all House Democrats to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her House Education and Labor Committee and House Budget Committee assignments in response to controversial political statements she had made.[34]


In January 2001, Smith became chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and pushed for policies Republican leadership opposed, including voting against the Republican and for the Democratic budget resolution because the latter included more spending on veterans programs. In 2004, Smith refused to endorse the Republican budget proposal unless it included more money for veterans. In a congressional hearing, Smith articulated his belief that the Bush Administration's budget request was $1.2 billion less than the Department of Veterans Affairs actually required, embarrassing the administration and Republican congressional leadership.[35][36] During his four years as committee chair, Smith wrote 22 bills addressing veterans' issues.[36] His unwillingness to follow the party line resulted in the House Republican Caucus removing him from his chairmanship (and from the committee altogether) in January 2005, at the beginning of the 109th Congress, with the chairmanship going to Steve Buyer instead, two years short of the normal six-year term.[35][36] Veterans' groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Paralyzed Veterans of America praised Smith and criticized the decision to remove him.[36]


U.S. Congressman Chris Smith presented a resolution at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues.

On May 6, 2014, Smith introduced the bill International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (H.R. 4573; 113th Congress), which would require the notification of foreign governments when an American registered as a sex offender of children travels to their country.[37][38][39]

As of April 2020, FiveThirtyEight reported that Smith voted in line with Trump's position 67.7% of the time, the third-lowest percentage among Republican members of Congress after fellow New Jerseyan Jeff Van Drew and Brian Fitzpatrick. Relative to the partisan lean of their respective districts, only Van Drew and Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie were less likely than Smith to vote with Trump.[40]

In March 2021, Smith was one of eight Republicans to join the House majority in passing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021.[41]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions


Smith is strongly anti-abortion. He is a co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and is co-chair of the Trump Administration's Pro-Life Coalition.[45][46] He supports the Mexico City policy, which blocks U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services.[47] In 2000, he voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2000.[48]

Smith expressed support for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, an amendment to America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.[49]

Smith has introduced various forms of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, starting with the original proposal in 2011. The 2011 proposal prohibited federal funds from being used for health benefits that cover abortion, unless in the case of rape, incest or if the woman could die. It also disqualified abortions from being written off on taxes.[48] In 2013, Smith reintroduced the proposal, which further restricted insurance coverage of abortions.[50] The bill passed the House but has yet to be voted on by the Senate.[51][52]

Domestic violence

Smith voted for the original 1994 Violence Against Women Act and co-sponsored the reauthorization bills of 2000 and 2005, the latter of which provided $1.6 billion for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted.[53] Smith voted against reauthorizing the act in 2013, due to the Senate version of the bill's cutting of funding for the Trafficking in Persons Office at the State Department, which Smith's Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 created.[54][55]


As of 2017, Smith has a lifetime score of 62% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters.[56] He believes in climate change and has called it a "global challenge that must be addressed with a global solution."[57]

Smith also opposes offshore drilling, particularly in New Jersey.[58]


Smith opposes concealed carry.[59] In 2016, he was one of four Republicans to receive a 100% rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and has generally received low or intermediate ratings from pro-gun organizations Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association.[60] Smith did not co-sponsor the Brady Campaign's proposed legislation to expand background checks for gun purchasers.[61]

Smith was one of five Republicans to co-sponsor HR 8 in the 116th Congress, which would require mandatory background checks for gun sales.[62]

Smith called the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting "tragic beyond words" and said, "The terrorist's motive, if linked to radical Islamist ideology, underscores the escalating national and worldwide threat from global jihad."[63]

In the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Smith co-sponsored a ban on bump stocks with Leonard Lance.[64]

Health care

Smith has written three major laws to address autism, including the most recent Autism CARES which included $1.3 billion in funding for research, services and supports and requires a report on aging out.[65]

On May 9, 2014, Smith introduced the bill Autism CARES Act of 2014, a bill that would amend the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize research, surveillance, and education activities related to autism spectrum disorders (autism) conducted by various agencies within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).[66]

On May 9, 2019, Smith was one of only three Republicans who voted for HR 986, a measure supported by all voting House Democrats intended to maintain protections of those with preexisting medical conditions to have continued access to affordable medical insurance under the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.[67] Five weeks earlier, he had voted with seven other Republicans to pass a resolution condemning the Trump administration's efforts by Department of Justice to have the courts invalidate Obamacare.[68]

Smith has been a longtime promoter of the medically unrecognized "chronic Lyme disease", and has pushed for the medical establishment to recognize the condition.[69] The condition, not to be confused with genuine Lyme disease, is generally rejected by medical professionals, and its promotion is generally seen as health fraud.[70][71][72] In 2019, Smith proposed an investigation into whether the Pentagon had released "weaponized" ticks infected with Lyme disease into the environment between 1950 and 1975.[73][74] Scientists identified this proposal--which Congress did not adopt--as based on a conspiracy theory and claimed that an investigation was unnecessary and a poor use of funds.[75][76][77]

Human rights

Congressman Chris Smith speaks at the United Nations

Smith advocates for human rights, serving on numerous committees that seek to impact both national and international laws and legislation. He has stated that the bills he introduces to the house are meant to make the U.S. take "human rights seriously."[78]

In 1999, Smith proposed, as part of the American Embassy Security Act, to stop a U.S. sponsored program which provided training to Royal Ulster Constabulary with the FBI, due to claims of human rights violations, i.e. harassment of defense attorneys representing republicans in Northern Ireland.[79] However, he voted no on a bill that halts arms sales to Saudi Arabia and removes troops from Yemen.[80]

He supported the return David Goldman's son in the Goldman child abduction case, which involved a trip to Brazil.[81] Smith acknowledges the Armenian genocide and has made calls for the U.S. to recognize it.[82]

In 2017, Smith co-sponsored an effort to prioritize human rights in Azerbaijan with Jim McGovern. The H. Res. 537 act also seeks to see further implementation of the Magnitsky Act regarding Azerbaijani officials, as well as a call for Azerbaijan to release all political prisoners.[83] He supports efforts to deport Jakiw Palij, a denaturalized former American citizen residing in New York who failed to disclose he worked as a guard at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.[84] Smith condemned Turkey's wide-ranging crackdown on dissent following a failed July 2016 coup.[85]


Smith has held congressional hearings and has proposed bills regarding human rights violations, specifically around women's sexual health, activism and religious groups, in China. He staunchly opposes the forced sterilization and forced abortions being implemented by the Chinese government towards women regarding China's one-child policy. Regarding the victimization of these women, Smith stated that "the agony that those women carry with them is beyond words. They talk about the pain that they carry for their child and for the violation by the state." In response, Smith wrote a bill, which was put into law in 1999, making it illegal for the U.S. to issue visas to foreign nationals who have been involved in forced abortion or sterilization.[78]

Smith called for the release of China's jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, December 2015

Smith held a congressional hearing regarding the disappearance of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.[78] He attempted, in 2011, to visit Chen in China, when the activist was under house arrest, but was not granted permission.[86] In response to the violations towards Chen and his family, Smith sponsored the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, which sought to prevent known Chinese human rights violators from entering the U.S.[78]

In the wake of the 2014 Hong Kong class boycott campaign and Umbrella Movement, Smith co-sponsored the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting Hong Kong's ongoing autonomy and the human rights of those Hong Kongers involved in nonviolent protests and/or those who have had their rights violated by the Chinese government.[87]

In November 2018, Smith raised the issue of Xinjiang re-education camps and human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority.[88] Smith said: "The internment of over a million Uyghurs and other Muslims in China is a staggering evil and should be treated by the international community as a crime against humanity. The Chinese government's creation of a vast system of what can only be called concentration camps cannot be tolerated in the 21st century."[89]

South Korea

Smith has indicated his serious concern on the amendment of the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act in South Korea which passed the South Korean National Assembly on December 14, 2020. It penalizes activists who send anti-North Korean material across the border as balloon propaganda. It was passed by the super-majority of the ruling party of President Moon Jae-in who is keen to improve cross-border ties. Smith stated that "While I would hope that members of Korea's Democratic Party would see how damaging this proposed legislation is to democratic principles and human rights, and thus reverse course, in the event that they pass such a law, I call upon our State Department to critically reevaluate the Republic of Korea's commitment to democratic values in its annual human rights report, as well as in its report on international religious freedom. It may very well be that we will see South Korea put on a watch list, which would be a very sad development indeed."[90]


Smith supports religious rights regarding international human rights. He supports sanctions against Vietnam regarding their treatment of the Catholics and China regarding the Uyghurs and Falun Gong.[81]


Smith supported the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act in 2012, which would have extended the deadline for Indonesian immigrants to file for citizenship.[91]

Intellectual property rights

Smith authored the Global Online Freedom Act in 2007, but it did not become law.[92] The proposed legislation was a bill "to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes."[93] Specifically, the bill would prohibit American companies from turning over data about customers residing in "internet restrictive countries." The bill is supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders. It is opposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[94]

January 6 commission

On May 19, 2021, Smith was one of 35 Republicans who joined all Democrats in voting to approve legislation to establish the January 6 commission meant to investigate the storming of the U.S. Capitol.[95]

LGBT rights

In 2015, Smith said he did not consider same-sex marriage a fundamental human right as defined by the United Nations.[96]

Labor movement

Smith supports the Employee Free Choice Act.[81] The AFL-CIO Legislative Scorecard, which tracks support for workers' rights, gives Smith a 61% lifetime rating, ranking him seventh of New Jersey's twelve Representatives, and 195th of the House's 435 Representatives.[97]

The AFL-CIO endorsed Smith for re-election in 2018, calling him one of the "best candidates for working people," due to his support for collective bargaining, opposition to the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, and support for infrastructure funding, among other reasons.[98]

As of March 2019, Smith is the only Republican co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act.[99] He also supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which expanded the scope of the statute of limitations for pay discrimination.[100]


Smith has a "D" rating from NORML regarding his voting record on cannabis-related matters. He has consistently voted against the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which provides veterans access to information regarding medical marijuana accessibility in their respective states.[101][failed verification]

Veterans affairs

Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars calls Smith "the best friend" of veterans. In 2004, Smith refused to endorse the Republican budget proposal unless it included more money for veterans. In a congressional hearing, Smith publicly articulated his belief that the Bush Administration's budget request was $1.2 billion less than the Department of Veterans Affairs actually required, embarrassing the administration and Republican congressional leadership.[102] In 2005, Smith was removed from his chairmanship and membership on the Veterans Affair Committee for his aggressive role in seeking more funding for veteran-related causes.[81]

Science policy

Smith supports efforts to provide alternatives to embryonic stem cell research. In 2005, he co-sponsored a bill with Artur Davis to fund the creation of a network of national blood banks to distribute umbilical cord blood for stem cell research.[103]


Smith voted against the 2017 Republican tax legislation backed by Donald Trump; he was one of five Republican representatives from New Jersey who joined Democrats in opposing the bill. Smith opposed the bill as "unfair to the taxpayers of New Jersey" because it dramatically limited the federal reduction of state and local taxes (SALT).[104] and said he would be "forced to oppose" more tax cuts if legislation included a provision permanently extending the $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction.[105]

Electoral history

New Jersey's 4th congressional district: Results 1978-2018[106][107][108][109][110]
Year Republican Votes % Democratic Votes % Third Party Party Votes % Third Party Party Votes %
1978 Frank Thompson (Inc) 69,259 61.1% Chris Smith 41,833 36.9% John Valjean Mahalchik Independent 1,145 1% Paul Rizzo No Slogan 827 1%
1980 Chris Smith 95,447 57% Frank Thompson (Inc) 68,480 41% Jack Moyers Libertarian 2,801 2% Paul Rizzo No Slogan 1,776 1%
1982 Chris Smith 85,660 53% Joseph Merlino 75,658 47% Bill Harris Libertarian 662 0% Paul Rizzo No Slogan 374 0% *
1984 Chris Smith 139,295 61% James Hedden 87,908 39%
1986 Chris Smith 78,699 61% Jeffrey Laurenti 49,290 38% Earl Dickey Stop Financing Communism 789 1%
1988 Chris Smith 155,283 66% Betty Holland 79,006 33% Judson Carter Independent 1,114 0% Daniel Maiullo Libertarian 791 0%
1990 Chris Smith 99,920 63% Mark Setaro 54,961 35% Carl Peters Libertarian 2,178 1% Joseph Notarangelo Populist 1,206 1% *
1992 Chris Smith 149,095 62% Brian Hughes 84,514 35% Benjamin Grindlinger Libertarian 2,984 1% Patrick Pasculi Independent 2,137 1% *
1994 Chris Smith 109,818 68% Ralph Walsh 49,537 31% Leonard Marshall Conservative 1,579 1% Arnold Kokans Natural Law 833 1%
1996 Chris Smith 146,404 64% Kevin Meara 77,565 34% Robert Figueroa Independent 3,000 1% J. Morgan Strong Independent 2,034 1% *
1998 Chris Smith 92,991 62% Larry Schneider 52,281 35% Keith Quarles Independent 1,753 1% Morgan Strong Independent 1,495 1% *
2000 Chris Smith 158,515 63% Reed Gusciora 87,956 35% Stuart Chaifetz Independent 3,627 1% Paul Teel Independent 712 0%
2002 Chris Smith 115,293 66% Mary Brennan 55,967 32% Keith Quarles Libertarian 1,211 1% Hermann Winkelmann Honesty, Humanity, Duty 1,063 1% *
2004 Chris Smith 192,671 67% Amy Vasquez 92,826 32% Richard Edgar Libertarian 2,056 1%
2006 Chris Smith 124,482 66% Carol Gay 62,902 33% Richard Edgar Libertarian 1,539 1% Louis Wary Remove Medical Negligence 614 0%
2008 Chris Smith 202,972 66% Joshua Zeitz 100,036 32% Steven Welzer Green 3,543 1%
2010 Chris Smith 129,752 69% Howard Kleinhendler 52,118 28% Joe Siano Libertarian 2,912 2% Steven Welzer Green 1,574 1% *
2012 Chris Smith 195,146 64% Brian Froelich 107,992 35% Leonard Marshall No Slogan 3,111 1%
2014 Chris Smith 118,826 68% Ruben Scolavino 54,415 31% Scott Neuman D-R Party 1,608 1%
2016 Chris Smith 211,992 64% Lorna Phillipson 111,532 34% Hank Schroeder Economic Growth 5,840 2% Jeremy Marcus Libertarian 3,320 1%
2018 Chris Smith 159,965 55% Joshua Welle 123,995 43% Michael Rufo Libertarian 1,352 1% Ed Stackhouse Independent 1,034 0% *
2020 Chris Smith 254,103 60% Stephanie Schmid 162,420 38% Hank Schroeder Independent 3,195 1% Michael Rufo Libertarian 2,583 1% *
  • In elections marked with an asterisk (*), additional candidates received less than 1% of the vote.


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External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frank Thompson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th congressional district

Preceded by
Dennis DeConcini
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Al D'Amato
Preceded by
Al D'Amato
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Ben Campbell
Preceded by
Bob Stump
Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Steve Buyer
Preceded by
Ben Campbell
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Sam Brownback
Preceded by
Byron Dorgan
Chair of the Joint China Commission
Succeeded by
Sherrod Brown
Preceded by
Ben Cardin
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Ben Cardin
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Roger Wicker
Preceded by
Sherrod Brown
Chair of the Joint China Commission
Succeeded by
Marco Rubio
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Hal Rogers
United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Steny Hoyer

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