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3rd district Republican nominee Bob Healey Jr. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Healey praises McCarthy, but won’t commit to backing him for leader

NJ-3 Republican says he’ll wait to see ‘who’s going to pop their head up’

By Joey Fox, September 20 2022 12:47 pm

If 3rd district Republican nominee Bob Healey is elected to Congress this November, he, alongside scores of other newly elected Republican House members, will face a difficult choice: should he back current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) for House Speaker?

Asked today about that prospect, Healey praised McCarthy for his efforts to win competitive House seats with a diverse slate of nominees, but stopped short of endorsing him to become Speaker. (There’s virtually no scenario in which Healey wins but Democrats hold the House, so a hypothetical Congressman Healey would almost certainly be serving in the majority.)

“I’m committed to seeing who’s going to pop their head up … and what their plans are to actually get something done in Congress,” Healey said. “I think so many people are just tired of having politicians that talk a good game, and they don’t deliver on anything. So I want to see somebody that can work together with people.”

McCarthy has spent the last several months aiming to tamp down potential rebellions in the House Republican caucus in preparation for November, when Republicans are favored to win back the House majority after four years in the minority.

Part of that effort has included backing mainstream Republican candidates, among them Healey, in competitive congressional districts. During his June primary against right-wing gym owner Ian Smith, Healey was added to the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC)’s list of preferred candidates, and Healey said he’s also had several positive conversations with McCarthy himself.

“I think Kevin McCarthy has displayed that he’s certainly got a good knowledge of how to run races, of how to get good candidates,” he said. “[McCarthy has] displayed the ability to work with a lot of different people. So I think he’s off to a great start.”

Any potential challenge to McCarthy’s leadership would probably come from the right, something that the more moderate Healey would be unlikely to support; the chances of Congressman Healey backing, for example, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for Speaker seem low. 

But Healey’s unwillingness to directly back McCarthy is still notable, and is reminiscent of many Democratic House candidates’ hesitance to support Nancy Pelosi in 2018. Most of those skeptical Democrats – among them Healey’s opponent, Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) – ended up voting for Pelosi anyways.

If Healey does manage to defeat Kim in the Democratic-leaning 3rd district, he’ll also face a choice about what committee seats to aim for. Given that the district is home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a major air force base and economic driver in Burlington County, Healey said he’d like to serve on the House Armed Forces Committee, of which Kim is currently a member.

“It’s so, so important that that base does not shut down,” Healey said. “We have to protect that base and make sure that it’s always got missions. And more importantly, we have to make life good for the people that live and work there.”

Jim Saxton was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee before  his retirement in 2008 and Jon Runyan spent four years on the panel.   The only two 3rd district congressmen who opted to serve on the House Financial Institutions Committee instead,  Democrat John Adler and Republican Tom MacArthur, lost re-election bids.

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