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Democratic congressional candidate Will Cunningham
Democratic congressional candidate Will Cunningham

Cunningham enters race to oppose Van Drew

Former Booker staffer won 16% in 2018

By David Wildstein, January 08 2020 9:18 am

Will Cunningham, a former aide to U.S. Senator Cory Booker who won 16% of the vote against Jeff Van Drew in the 2018 Democratic congressional primary in the 2nd district, says he’s running again.

Cunningham is the fifth Democrat to enter the race against Van Drew, a freshman congressman who switched parties last month after refusing to vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

“I ran against Jeff Van Drew two years ago. I knew then he was a fake Democrat,” said Cunningham. “He abandoned his oath of office and betrayed our community — all to gain access to Donald Trump. He must be held accountable.”

Cunningham has a compelling life story, although that didn’t carry him far in his last race.

“I’m a proud son of South Jersey, born and raised in Vineland, in the poorest county in New Jersey. My family was blue-collar, working hourly jobs — and then my mom lost hers,” Cunningham said. “We became homeless, but we were never hopeless, so I focused on the only thing I could control: my education. The hardships I’ve overcome have driven me to fight for other families in South Jersey. I know their struggle.”

Now a chief investigator for the House Oversight Committee, Cunningham is an attorney who worked for Booker before taking a job working for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland).

While Cummings kicked in $1,500 in 2018, Cunningham struggled to raise money and despite his Capitol Hill connections, brought in just $78,063 for his last House race. The other two Democrats challenging Van Drew from the left, Tanzie Youngblood and Nathan Kleinman, outraised Cunningham.

Booker did not take sides in that race, and most Booker staffers stayed out of it as well.

With all eight Democratic organization lines, Van Drew won the primary with 57%, followed by Youngblood (19%), Cunningham (16%) and Kleinman (8%).

As a 2020 candidate, Cunningham is touting his own credentials as a congressional staffer, suggesting that he’s been more successful in Washington than Van Drew.

“While Jeff Van Drew was busy taking photo ops with Donald Trump, I was a Chief Investigator on the House Oversight Committee holding Trump accountable,” Cunningham said. “I’m running to strengthen our communities and to create opportunities for everyone in South Jersey — and because we deserve a true Democrat representing us in Congress.”

Cunningham will face political science professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett, former public school teacher Amy Kennedy, and West Cape May Commissioner John Francis III in the Democratic primary.

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