Democratic State Chairman John Currie isn’t ready to back Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) for re-election.
“I’m not ready to endorse until I speak to the county chairs within the counties that he’s running in,” Currie said.
Van Drew’s continued opposition to impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump has angered some local leaders in his district.
In a letter to Van Drew obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman told the right-of-center Democrat he could not guarantee the incumbent a primary win if Van Drew continued to oppose Trump’s impeachment.
Atlantic County residents account for more than a third of the second district’s total population.
Brigid Callahan Harrison, a prominent political science professor at Montclair State University who lives in Atlantic County, has said she is considering a primary challenge, citing Van Drew’s opposition to impeachment as a reason for her interest in the seat.
Voting for impeachment would be a significant about-face for Van Drew, who as recently as Thursday told CNN he intended to oppose all articles of impeachment.
The congressman’s resistance to the investigations into the president — he was one of just two Democrats to vote against a resolution establishing the public procedures of the inquiry against Trump — has repeatedly drawn praise from the president.
That dynamic has led to some speculation that Van Drew may switch to the Republican party, though some local Republican leaders have suggested they would not welcome the longtime Democrat into the fold.
“I think he’s a Democrat and he should stay a Democrat,” Cape May County Republican Chairman Marcus Karavan told the New Jersey Globe last month.
Three Republicans—David Richter, Brian Fitzherbert and Robert Patterson — are vying for the nod in the second district, and Burlington County will award its party line to one of the three on Saturday, though that endorsement, at best, represents only a few hundred votes.
Van Drew has already secured the backing of Gov. Phil Murphy, though the governor made that endorsement, which encompassed each of the state’s Democratic House members, in July, months before Van Drew’s opposition to impeachment became his defining characteristic on the national stage.
Still, Currie said he was open to backing Van Drew for a second term
“To be honest with you, I’m totally not against it as the state chairman,” he said. “But the endorsements, the ones that are important, are the counties that he’s running in.”