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House candidate David Richter. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Richter wins GOP primary, will face Kim

Gibbs concedes after Ocean County delivers insurmountable margin

By Nikita Biryukov, July 08 2020 12:16 am

This story was updated with comment from Richter at 1:08 p.m. Wednesday.

David Richter defeated Kate Gibbs to win the Republican nod to take on Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) in a race marked by bitter Republican infighting that left the former Hill International CEO bruised and battered with the general election already looming large on the horizon.

Gibbs conceded the race at midnight Wednesday after winning 33% of the vote to Richter’s 67%.

“Tonight’s election didn’t have the outcome I had hoped for but I am extremely proud of the race we ran. While I move on to the next chapter of my life, I will continue to fight for what is right and stand up for conservative principles,” she said. “I will always be grateful for the support of all those who stood by and with me.”

Richter wracked up a huge margin in Ocean County, beating Gibbs there 16,637 to 4,345, leading the former Burlington County freeholder director 79%-21%.

Gibbs held a far narrower 5,781 to 4,311 lead in her home county, though roughly 11,000 votes there were not counted Tuesday night.

In December, Gibbs was all but assured to become the party’s nominee. Her home county’s Republican committee met months earlier than normal to aware her the party line.

Richter, who was then challenging then-Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), won the Burlington line for his second-district House bid with little contest.

But that race was turned on its head after Van Drew defected to the Republican party after losing support among rank-and-file Democrats in the state’s southernmost district.

Though he held on for weeks as President Donald Trump and national Republican leaders put their weight behind a newly-Republican Van Drew, the candidate eventually jumped to the third district with Trump’s blessing.

Top Trump advisor Bill Stepien signed onto Richter’s campaign as a consultant, and the candidate was given a speaking role at a January rally in Wildwood the president held to boost Van Drew. For Burlington Republicans

The message was clear: Richter, a self-funder had promised to give the campaign $1 million of his own money, had saved Republicans a costly primary fight in the second, and Trump wanted that favor repaid.

The swap caused a furor among Republican women and the Burlington GOP, who claimed Richter’s supporters were attempting to force out a young Republican woman because of a political maneuver elsewhere in the state, and relations between the two candidates quickly turned so acrid that some Republicans in the district privately worried the fight to oust Kim was already lost.

The former Hill International CEO launched bruising attacks targeting Gibbs criminal record. At 20, she was charged with shoplifting from a Kohl’s department store in Cherry Hill, and at 22, she was charged with a low-level marijuana possession offense.

Gibbs attacked Richter’s tenure as Hill International’s CEO, claiming the candidate was upselling what she called a failed career and charging that the candidate gouged New Jersey on school construction projects managed by the firm, also claiming Richter had ties to former Vice President Joe Biden’s brother.

Despite the attacks, Richter offered something of an olive branch after his victory Tuesday.

“I would like to thank my opponent Kate Gibbs for her concession last night and to commend her for running a tough, hard-fought race,” the presumptive nominee said. “I’m looking forward to earning the votes of Kate’s many supporters throughout the Third District and unifying the Republican Party as we work together to flip the district from blue to red this November.”

Richter’s attacks, at least, had some effect. Despite being backed by the Ocean County Republican screening committee, Gibbs narrowly lost a vote for the county’s GOP line, though Burlington County stuck by her side.

The two continued their feud even as COVID-19 shuttered most of the state.

Still, the pandemic had some effect on the contest: As business shuttered and a growing number of residents filed for unemployment, the Republicans’ fundraising slowed to a trickle.

Between March 1 and June 17, Richter brought in just $27,198, while Gibbs brought in $64,902 during a similar period. The former freeholder had $82,308 banked then. Richter had $206,624 on hand, though he had loaned his campaign only $600,000 of the promised $1 million.

Meanwhile, Kim, facing no primary challenge of his own, grew his own war chest to $4.2 million.

Vote tallies do not include uncounted mail-in ballots received by Tuesday, late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday, provisional ballots that won’t be counted for at least a week and mail-in ballots that were disqualified but may be cured at a later date.

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