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House candidates Brigid Harrison, left, and Amy Kennedy. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Little conflict at CD2 Dem forum

Some shots fired at Van Drew

By Nikita Biryukov, February 20 2020 9:12 pm

A candidate forum between Democrats running for the nod to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) came and went with little drama Thursday evening.

The roughly two-hour-long event saw six of the district’s seven Democratic candidates — Amy Kennedy, Brigid Harrison, Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett, Will Cunningham, Frederick John LaVergne and Robert Turkavage — field questions on healthcare, immigration, marijuana, online privacy and partisanship.

Disagreements were relatively rare.

All but Turkavage said they would support the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.

All supported the cap on social security taxes with some minor differences about the implementation of such a policy, and each candidate backed restrictions on corporate use of private data.

As the evening came to a close, more than one candidate said they’d be happy to see any of those on the stage challenge Van Drew, who defected to the Republican party in December after losing support among rank-and-file Democrats over his opposition to impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

“I am really encouraged by the other candidates and the quality of people that are in this room, that are excited about this race, because what it means to me is that we are going to get the voter turnout that we need,” Kennedy said during her closing statement.

Cunningham and Harrison echoed those sentiments, though the latter said she, without naming him, that she could not support one of the race’s male candidates because of a policy disagreement.

One Democrat, West Cape May Commissioner John Francis could not attend the candidate forum.

Few of the candidates on stage followed the playbook that won Van Drew the seat.

The first term congressman, then a state senator, was long known for his right-of-center positions and ran an incredibly moderate campaign.

LaVeregne urged Democrats to run without courting the extremes of either side of the political spectrum, but calls for moderate candidacies were otherwise absent Tuesday evening.

Some candidates went after national Republican leaders like Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Cunningham called “Satan reincarnate.”

Harrison launched a few attacks against Van Drew, including one in her opening statement.

“The reason that he has created this other is because it’s politically expedient, just like Jeff Van Drew changing parties was politically expedient,” she said, referring to Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants. “These people will stop at nothing in order to pin up their own political careers.”

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