Seth Grossman launched an attack at State Sen Jeff VanDrew using over the temporary closure of New Jersey Transit’s beleaguered Atlantic City line on Monday, invoking decades-old criticism of the line given by President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump noticed one big problem right away. In 1989, Trump criticized state officials for ‘sticking the (Atlantic City) train station in the middle of nowhere, and then building the convention center next to the train station,’” Grossman said in a statement. “Others at the time predicted service would be dangerous and unreliable because only one set of tracks was built. I was part of the Atlantic City delegation with Trump when we testified to state officials about our concerns.”
While leaning on Trump here might seem odd, it’s likely a smart play for Grossman, whose staked his campaign on a Trump candidacy in the president’s own image, said longtime conservative strategist Rick Shaftan.
Trump carried the district by just under five points in 2016, and while a relatively small number of people in the district – and anywhere else – take the Atlantic City line, making Grossman’s calls for the line’s shutdown a low-stakes gamble.
“I think that Seth’s running the best campaign of any Republican congressional candidate in the state, personally, because he’s the only one whose campaigning as a Trump candidate,” Shaftan said. “He’s in a district that Trump won by five, he’s running as the Trump candidate, he’s calling out Jeff Van Drew in a way no one’s done over 25 years of this guy being around.”
Still, Grossman’s exact tac here was somewhat scattered. In the same release he accused Van Drew and New Jersey Transit of misleading the public by calling the line’s closure temporary, he called for a permanent closure of the same, calling the line a “failed socialist experiment of government.”
While Transit officials have denied that the temporary closure, which they say is required to install federally-mandated safety equipment ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline, will be extended once the equipment is installed, the line is not without other problems.
Ridership is low. New Jersey Transit figures show a weekday ridership that scarcely breaks the 2,000-mark, making it the least-used line maintained by the transit network by a wide margin.
Despite that, Van Drew has called for the line to remain open while safety equipment is installed, putting him in opposition to both Grossman and New Jersey Transit on the issue.
So, including Van Drew in the attack might be something of a misfire, and it’s possible that Grossman stands to gain little more than points among his base.
It won’t do him any favors with Democrats, though.
“Seth Grossman’s campaign has been driven by racism and conspiracy theories from the start, so it’s no surprise to see that the authority Grossman turns to on an important transit issue is none other than noted transportation expert Donald Trump,” Democratic State Chairman John Currie said. “South Jersey families know how effective an advocate they have in Jeff Van Drew because of his impressive career as a state legislator. That’s why they will elect him as their next Congressman, not someone like Seth Grossman who seems to only be good at generating bad headlines for himself.”