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Democratic congressional candidate Will Cunningham
Democratic congressional candidate Will Cunningham

Democracy for America endorses Cunningham for Congress

Top grassroots group makes pick in NJ-2 race

By David Wildstein, April 29 2020 12:00 pm

Democracy for America, the grassroots political action committee formed by Howard Dean after his 2004 presidential campaign, has endorsed Will Cunningham for the Democratic nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd district.

Cunningham, a former aide to U.S. Senator Cory Booker and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, is one of five Democrats seeking the chance to take on Democrat-turned-Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew in the July 7 primary election.

Yvette Simpson, the Democracy for America CEO, said she expected Van Drew “to be a reactionary nightmare even before he got to Congress.”

“It’s hard to overstate the scale of his betrayal when he decided to ditch the South Jersey Democrats who helped elect him in 2018 to embrace Donald Trump a little more than a year later,” Simpson said.  “William Cunningham gives South Jersey voters an opportunity to remedy the mistake Democrats made in 2018 by helping elect Jeff Van Drew and replace him with someone who understands struggle, perseverance, and our shared progressive values.”

The organization has more than one million members nationally, including 39,377 in New Jersey and 2,484 in the 2nd district.

“Democracy for America is excited to endorse William Cunningham, not just because he’ll be better Representative than a traitor like Van Drew, but because he’ll be a massive improvement over Van Drew who’ll fight for bold, progressive reforms like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, voting rights, and criminal justice reform,” Simpson said.

Cunningham is making his second congressional run.  He finished third in the 2018 Democratic primary, receiving 16% of the vote in a contest Van Drew won with 57% in a four-way race.

The leading candidates for the nomination are political science professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, who has party support in six South Jersey counties that make up 54% of the total votes cast in the ’18 primary, and Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher and the wife of former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-Rhode Island).

Kennedy has the backing of the Atlantic County Democratic organization, which has 41% of the Democratic primary voters.

The remaining 5% comes from Ocean County, where Democratic party leaders are not backing anyone.

Support from DFA could help Cunningham boost his campaign coffers.

Cunningham has raised $81,779 and had $31,826 cash-on-hand after the first three months of 2020.

“I am honored to receive Democracy for America’s endorsement. As the real progressive in my race, it means the world to me to have the backing of an organization driven by the vision of progressive pioneer Howard Dean,” Cunningham said.  “Congress must better reflect the American populace, and I am grateful that Democracy for America values diversity in supporting the next generation of leaders. Together, we will win this race and restore this seat to the people Jeff Van Drew stole it from.”

When Dean ran for president in 2004, he secured endorsements from Democratic county chairs in Atlantic, Gloucester and Salem counties.  Dean also won the backing of Gov. James E. McGreevey, Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Long Branch) and Rush Holt (D-Hopewell), and 31 legislators.

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