|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New Jersey's 4th district
January 3, 1981
|Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee|
January 4, 2001 - January 3, 2005
Christopher Henry Smith
March 4, 1953
Rahway, New Jersey, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1978-present)|
|Democratic (before 1978)|
|Education||The College of New Jersey (BS)|
Christopher Henry Smith (born March 4, 1953) is an American politician currently serving in his 20th term as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 4th congressional district, having served since 1981. The district includes portions of Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. He is a member of the Republican Party.
Smith is currently the Dean of New Jersey's Congressional Delegation and was the delegation's sole Republican elected to the 116th Congress. Smith has focused much of his career promoting human rights abroad, including authoring the landmark 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 and to conduct aggressive oversight of human rights abuses, actions that have earned him scorn from abusing nations.
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. 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 gained about 15% of the vote, losing to Williams, who won re-nomination. In 1978 he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, and became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee, a part-time role.
While working at his family's sporting goods store, 25-year-old Smith ran for Congress as a Republican in 1978. He lost to longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Congressman Frank Thompson 61%-37%.
In 1980 he ran again in a rematch. Initially, Smith was thought to have a very slim chance of winning, but Thompson was indicted as part of the FBI's Abscam probe. 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. Helped by Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district, Smith defeated Thompson 57%-41%.
In 1982, Smith's district was redrawn to include more Democratic voters 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 reelection after one term. At the end of one of their debates, Smith approached Merlino to exchange pleasantries. Merlino was quoted as saying "Beat it, kid." Nonetheless, Smith defeated Merlino with 53% of the vote.
Subsequently, a federal court found the 1982 re-districting was impermissible gerrymandering, and Smith's district was redrawn to more closely resemble the one used in 1980. He has not faced another contest that close since.
In 2010, Smith received 69.4% of the vote, coming in ahead of Democratic candidate Howard Kleinhendler, Libertarian candidate Joe Siano, Green Party candidate Steven Welzer, and American Renaissance Movement candidate David Meiswinkle.
In 2014, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Ruben Scolanio, 68%-31%.
In 2016, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Lorna Phillipson in 63%-33%.
In 2018, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Joshua Welle, receiving 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 re-election since 1982.
Smith was ranked as the 17th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress (and the second most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey) in the Bipartisan Index by The Lugar Center.
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.
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 and nominated again by President Donald Trump in 2017 for the 72nd session.
In January 2001, Smith became chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and there pushed for policies opposed by the Republican leadership, 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 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. During his four years as committee chair, Smith wrote 22 bills addressing veterans' issues. Smith's unwillingness to follow the party line resulted in the House Republican Caucus removing Smith 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. Veterans' groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Paralyzed Veterans of America, praised Smith and criticized Republican leadership's decision to remove him.
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 is going to be traveling to their country.
As of April 2020, FiveThirtyEight reported that Smith voted in line with President Donald Trump's position 67.7% of the time, the third-lowest percentage among current Republican members of Congress after fellow New Jerseyan Jeff Van Drew, who was a member of the Democratic Party, 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 President Trump.
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. He supports the Mexico City policy, which blocks U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counselling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services.
Smith has introduced various forms of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, starting with the original proposal in 2011. The original 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. Two years later, in 2013, he re-introduced the proposal, which further restricted insurance coverage of abortions. The bill passed the House but has yet to be voted on by the Senate.
Smith voted for the original 1994 Violence Against Women Act and co-sponsored the re-authorization bills of 2000 and 2005, the latter of which provided $1.6 billion toward 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. However, Smith voted against re-authorizing 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.
As of 2017, Smith has a lifetime score of 62% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters. Smith believes in climate change and has called it a "global challenge that must be addressed with a global solution."
Smith is also opposed to offshore drilling, particularly in New Jersey.
Smith opposes concealed carry. In 2016, Smith 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.
Smith did not co-sponsor the Brady Campaign's proposed legislation to expand background checks for gun purchasers.
Smith was one of five Republicans to co-sponsor HR 8 in the 116th Congress, which would require mandatory background checks for gun sales.
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."
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.
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).
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 pre-existing medical conditions to have continued access to affordable medical insurance under the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Five weeks earlier, Smith 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."
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."
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. However, he voted no on a bill that halts arms sales to Saudi Arabia and removes troops from Yemen.
He supported the return David Goldman's son in the Goldman child abduction case, which involved a trip to Brazil. Smith acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and has made calls for the U.S. to recognize it.
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. 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. Smith condemned Turkey's wide-ranging crackdown on dissent following a failed July 2016 coup.
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.
Smith held a congressional hearing regarding the disappearance of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng. He attempted, in 2011, to visit Chen in China, when the activist was under house arrest, but was not granted permission. 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.
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.
In November 2018, Smith raised the issue of Xinjiang re-education camps and human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority. 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."
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.
Smith authored the Global Online Freedom Act in 2007, but it did not become law. 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." 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.
This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. (August 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Smith supports the Employee Free Choice Act. 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.
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.
As of March 2019, Smith is the only Republican co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act. He also supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which expanded the scope of the statute of limitations for pay discrimination.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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). 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.
In 2008, Chris Smith was criticized by many of his constituents for spending about 80% of his time in Herndon, Virginia. At the time, he maintained a residence in Virginia and an apartment in New Jersey. Homeownership and residency were not requirements to run for Congress in New Jersey. Smith did not question the data, but responded that the only issue was whether or not he was "being effective" as Representative and that it was "an affront to say to anyone who does rent in New Jersey that they're any less a resident of a town."
Since 1993, Smith has been criticized by many of his constituents for taking them for granted and not participating in town halls. However, Smith held a virtual town hall with the Asbury Park Press in 2018.
|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||0.7%|
|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||1%|
|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%||*|
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th congressional district
| Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
| Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
| Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
| Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
| Chair of the Joint China Commission
| Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
| Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
| Chair of the Joint China Commission
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority