Van Drew Expected to Become a Republican

2nd District Congressman Opposes Trump Impeachment
By Rick Mellerup | Dec 18, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Washington, D.C. — It is expected that Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who represents New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Southern Ocean County save half of Stafford Township and the entirety of Barnegat Township, will turn from Blue to Red this week. Numerous media outlets reported on Saturday that Van Drew had not only told his staff about a switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP, but conferred with President Donald Trump about the change. Van Drew has been a Democrat since he served on the Dennis Township Committee starting in 1991 before becoming a Cape May County freeholder, a member of the New Jersey General Assembly, a New Jersey state senator and a U.S. Representative.

Several reports said Van Drew, who has opposed Trump’s impeachment, decided to make the switch after internal polling showed him well underwater with Democrats in his district. So he pulled the ripcord before he plunged even lower with South Jersey Dems, despite the fact he didn’t even have an announced primary challenger.

Some of his district’s Democratic leaders have already been critical of Van Drew’s decision. What will be interesting, however, is how the GOP bigwigs in the district, which includes all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties and portions of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Ocean counties, react to his change of party.

The Republican field for the primary is already crowded.

Brian Fitzherbert, a 30-year-old engineer and project manager in the defense and aerospace industry who resides in Egg Habor Township, has been running in the GOP Republican Primary since July. Fitzherbert, like just about any Republican candidate for any office these days, is running as a conservative. But he’s also running as a newcomer – “It’s time a fresh candidate with new ideas tackles the issues facing the 2nd District; not the politicians of yesterday” – and, considering he’s never held public office, he’s an outsider.

Fitzherbert may be new on the scene, but he organized a professional campaign team from day one that includes the campaign manager for former New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance, the deputy political director for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential run, and a former executive director of the New Jersey Republican Party. He and his team have been busy racking up numerous endorsements from GOP officeholders in the district.

So it wasn’t surprising Fitzherbert wasn’t happy when he heard Van Drew might butt in to the Republican space.

“How stupid does desperate Jeff Van Drew think South Jersey Republicans are?” asked Fitzherbert late Saturday afternoon. “Desperate Jeff knew exactly what Washington Democrats were about when he ran for Congress two years ago. In his brief time in Washington, he’s voted with Nancy Pelosi over 91 percent of the time, Adam Schiff 88 percent and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 84 percent. How can South Jersey Republicans trust Jeff Van Drew to represent our party?

“His own party has rejected him, and now he’s trying to use South Jersey Republicans to cling onto his power. Shame on him. This race has and will continue to be about improving our local economy and creating opportunity for South Jersey, ensuring President Trump gets reelected this November.

“There is no place for desperate Jeff Van Drew in South Jersey’s Republican Party.”

Van Drew will be challenged by two other candidates in a Republican primary who likely also won’t be thrilled if the congressman complicates the picture.

Robert (Bob) Patterson served as a senior adviser and acting associate commissioner at the Social Security Administration under President Trump and had been a senior speechwriter for President George W. Bush’s administration. He was also an unsuccessful Republican candidate for New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District seat in 2016.

The other announced 2nd District Republican candidate is David Richter, an Oxford- and Harvard-educated millionaire attorney who is the CEO of Hill International, a Philadelphia-based company that offers project management, program management, construction management and construction claims services worldwide.

— Rick Mellerup

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