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Rep. Andy Kim. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Andy Kim endorsed by Laborers Union, which backed his opponent in 2018

Freshman congressman picks up support of one of New Jersey’s most politically influential building trades unions

By David Wildstein, July 16 2020 5:00 am

The New Jersey Laborers Union (LiUNA) has endorsed freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) for re-election, flipping one of the state’s most politically influential building trades unions to his side just two years they backed his opponent.

The Laborers backed the Republican  incumbent Kim ousted in the last election, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) in his 2014, 2016 and 2018 congressional campaigns, and supported MacArthur’s predecessor, Rep. Jon Runyan (D-Moorestown) in 2012.

The LiUNA endorsement, often accompanied by money, boots on the ground and votes, is a huge deal for Kim, a former Obama White House staffer who just narrowly beat MacArthur two years ago in a district that Donald Trump carried by six percentage points in 2016.

The announcement of support comes one week after Republicans nominated former construction company CEO David Richter to run against Kim. Richter defeated labor leader Kate Gibbs, who works for the Operating Engineers Local 825, in the Republican primary.

“We have seen the assault on New Jersey working families by the Republican-led Congress and administration.  Families lost thousands of dollars each year when they eliminated the mortgage and property tax deduction. Publicly-supported healthcare is being dismantled by the Republicans with no alternative plan offered,” said Raymond M. Pocino, Vice President, Laborers’ International Union of North America and Eastern Regional Manager.

Pocino, who has spent decades as one of New Jersey’s most powerful political players, praised Kim’s record as a congressman for the last two years.

“Andy Kim has been right on the issues and is the right person for LIUNA members and anyone else who worries about making ends meet, caring for loved ones, and leaving a better world for our children,” Pocino said.  “Andy Kim works hard, he works, smart, and most importantly, he works for us. In the poisoned and polluted environment of Washington DC, we need people like Andy Kim who put working families above partisan politics. ”

The Laborer’s endorsement of Kim is a blow to Richter.

“Anyone running for office would rather have Ray Pocino with them rather against them,” said Democratic strategist Michael Soliman.  “This is a huge win for Andy Kim.”

Kim has already labor endorsements for his re-election, including the Ironworkers Local 399, the Communications Workers of America Local 1036 and Local 1032, and the Teamsters Joint Council 53 and Local 676.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of the New Jersey Laborers Union. 20,000 members strong, the Laborers are an essential part of our community here in Jersey,” said Kim. “As we fight to strengthen our economy and get Americans back to work safely, I’m proud to stand with the Laborers in their fight for better pay, better benefits, and the principle that working families are the foundation of our economy.”

While Republicans were fighting a bitter primary campaign where wounds have not yet healed, Kim has focused on fundraising.  He’s got a gargantuan $3.5 million warchest after raising over $1 million during the second quarter of 2020.

Richter reported cash-on-hand of $123,000 one week before the GOP primary.

Kim stopped MacArthur’s bid for a third term in 2018 by 3,973 votes (50%-49%) in what was the closest House race in the state.

As a first-time candidate in the 2018 mid-term elections, Kim raised $6,230,916 – significantly more than MacArthur, who self-funded his first race.  He brought in $4,778,480.

New Jersey’s 3rd district has 16,170 more Democrats than Republicans, but Donald Trump won it by six percentage points, 51%-45%.

Democrats won the seat in 2008, when John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) won following the retirement of twelve-term Rep. Jim Saxton (R-Bordentown).  Adler lost to Runyan, a retired NFL star,  two years later.

Kim has also received endorsements from the OPEIU Local 32, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air & Rail Transportation Workers (SMART), and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (Boilermakers), the ATU New Jersey State Council, UA Local 322, Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Service Technicians, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers of New Jersey, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the New Jersey State Association of Letter Carriers, and the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ).

This story was updated at 8:54 AM with comment from Pocino.

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