Rep. Tom MacArthur’s campaign made a last-minute shift in its campaign strategy in response to a text message that said Democrat Andy Kim “served in Afghanistan.”
In 2011, Kim, who was then a national security staffer in President Barack Obama’s administration, spent time in Afghanistan as a civilian aide to Gen. David Petraeus. MacArthur’s camp has contested his role in Petraeus’s retinue, saying the challenger was a low-level aide and not a strategic adviser to the general, as Kim says he was.
“Andy Kim served in Afghanistan and the White House. Now he’s working to stop partisan bickering in D.C.,” the text message said. “Can Andy Count on you (sic) vote for Congress Tuesday?”
Kim’s campaign said they were not the ones that sent the text. While it’s not clear the group was responsible for the message, the Fair & Balanced PAC made paid for $7,436-worth of phone calls/text messages supporting Kim on Nov. 3.
Whoever was sent it out, MacArthur’s team saw the message, which was sent from a toll-free number with an 866 area code, as a step over the line.
“Our entire day today has shifted towards veterans in the past 24 hours, essentially,” MacArthur district chief of staff Frank Luna said. “We just had lunch with a bunch of veterans in Tom’s River. We’re going to visit with a bunch of veterans in Burlington County this afternoon and just driving the point home that Andy Kim is being accused of stolen valor by a U.S. Navy Seal from Burlington County.”
That Navy Seal is Assemblyman Ryan Peters, a former Burlington County Freeholder and Republican rising star, though he denies the latter.
“Andy Kim claims he ‘served in Afghanistan,’ but he was never in the military. He never served in combat,” Peters says in the robocall. “Andy Kim is committing stolen valor and it’s beyond offensive. I am a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and I hope you’ll join me in voting for Tom MacArthur, an honest man who respects our military.”
Polls have pegged the race in the third congressional district as the closest in the state, and if they’re spot on, any little thing could shift the margin before polls close at 8 p.m.