Atlantic County Democrats awarded Amy Kennedy the line Sunday, giving the candidate her first organizational endorsement in her bid for the nomination to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis).
Kennedy defeated political science professor Brigid Harrison 157 to 73, 63%-28%.
“This is the wind in our sails,” Kennedy said.
Former U.S. Sen. Cory Booker staffer Will Cunningham finished third with 21 votes.
Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett, who suspended her campaign at Sunday’s convention but remained on the pre-printed ballots, received 10 votes.
Former FBI agent Robert Turkavage got two votes.
Two other candidates, West Cape May Commissioner John Francis III and Frederick John LaVergne did not compete for the county line.
Democratic county chairs from Camden, Burlington, Cape May, Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland Counties backed Harrison shortly after she announced her intention to run against Van Drew last year.
Ocean County Democratic Chairman Wyatt Earp has yet to back a candidate.
The contest in Atlantic County was widely seen as a two-woman race despite the breadth of candidates in the running.
While Cunningham and, to a lesser degree, Bennett leveled attacks at outside influence of powerbrokers in the district’s primaries, Harrison and Kennedy largely avoided intra-party jabs. They instead opted to tout their qualifications and mount attacks on national Republicans.
“When I go to Washington, I’m going to take a message, and that message is it is not OK that there are kids in cages, and it is not OK that there are veterans taking their lives more by suicide than losing them in active duty,” Kennedy said. “And it is not OK that our unions are under attack day by day and it is not OK that there is corporate PAC money in our elections.”
Kennedy was not exactly at outsider.
Her father, Jerry Savell, is a former Atlantic County freeholder who served as a councilman in Pleasantville and Absecon.
Kennedy’s victory sets up a competitive, and likely costly, primary for the chance to take on Van Drew, who has and is likely to continue to enjoy support from President Donald Trump.
Van Drew defected to the Republican party last year after losing support among rank-and-file Democrats in the district over his opposition to impeachment proceedings against Trump.
His defection followed a personal plea from Trump, who held a rally boosting the congressman in Wildwood in January.
Kennedy’s victory came in part because of support from Atlantic City Democrats.
The powerful organization, headed unofficially by former Atlantic County Council President Craig Callaway, backed Kennedy in January.
Most of the county’s delegates, 275 of the eligible 337, attended Sunday’s convention.
Primary day is June 2.
Atlantic County made up 41% of the total votes cast in the 2018 Democratic congressional primary in NJ-2.
Cape May was 15%, followed by Gloucester (13%), Cumberland (8%), Salem (8%), Ocean (5%), and Camden (1%). There were just 56 total votes cast in Burlington, just two-tenths of one percent.