Veronica Fernandez plans to withdraw an independent congressional candidate in New Jersey’s 7th district, leaving a two-way race between two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and former Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield).
“I honestly am sick to my stomach trying to fight a system that will not change itself,” she said in a Facebook post, which included a video of her announcement. “I am truly sorry.”
The exit of Fernandez, who had staked out a platform frequently to the left, potentially boosts Malinowski. In the 2018 midterm election run under the old map, a Green Party candidate received 2,676 votes and a Freedom Party candidate who later ran as a Libertarian for governor and as a Republican for Congress, received 2,296 votes.
In a tight general election – Malinowski won by just one percentage points two years ago – Fernandez might have been a spoiler for the Democratic congressman in a close race.
Fernandez said “there was no way for a win” bemoaned how the media ignored her candidacy.
She had not been included in debates between Malinowski and Kean, including one sponsored by the New Jersey Globe in October.
“Allowing voters to hear from all their choices enables them to be better informed when casting their votes,” she said in an email to the Globe. “I am a viable candidate.”
But there was little Fernandez showed to demonstrate the plausibility of her election. She had raised $3,815 through the end of June and had just $1,110 cash-on-hand. There was no evidence of grassroots support for her candidacy; her campaign Twitter account had just 166 followers, many of them from outside the 7th district.
Fernandez had lost races for the Washington Township Committee in western Morris County as a Democrat, losing in 2017, 2018 and 2019. As an independent candidate for U.S. Senate against Cory Booker in 2020, she received 0.73% of the statewide vote. In that race’s she took 0.95% in her hometown.
“I am not a typical candidate. I am not wealthy or a well-connected party insider,” she said on her campaign website. “What I am is a wife, mother, self-employed, proud blue collar business owner who every day tries to figure it out and it just keeps getting harder.”
She said she was not endorsing any other candidate.
The deadline for independents to drop out of the race is today.
A general election contest without any independents is unusual in New Jersey, where ballot access is incredibly easy. The only other candidate who filed, Libertarian Clayton Pajunas, was tossed off the ballot in June when an administrative law judge ruled that he didn’t have the minimum 50 signatures needed to qualify a candidate.
No independent has won a congressional seat in New Jersey since at least before the Civil War. The only independent elected to the legislature was Anthony Imperiale, who won an Assembly seat in 1971 and election to the State Senate in 1973.
While independents in New Jersey don’t typically win, they sometimes get enough votes to impact the outcome of an election.
In 2018, conservative Lawrence Berlinski, Jr. received 3,902 votes as the Constitution Party candidate in the 3rd district. He was nearly the spoiler in that race, where first-time candidate Andy Kim unseated two-term Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) by 3,973 votes in the midterm election.
In the 11th legislative district last year, Green Party candidate Dominique Faison arguably cost Democrats a State Assembly seat. Her 1,152 votes were more than double the 506 vote margin of Republican Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury) in her defeat of three-term Democratic Assemblywoman JoAnn Downey (D-Freehold).
InsiderNJ first reported Fernandez’s exit from the race.