U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is taking sides in the Democratic primary for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd district, endorsing Brigid Callahan Harrison.
Menendez called Harrison “the one who can make it happen” as Democrats seek to flip a House seat they lost in December when Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) switched parties.
“Jeff Van Drew betrayed South Jersey’s trust, but Brigid will be the one to restore it,” Menendez said in an fundraising pitch for Harrison. “We need a true Democrat in Congress fighting for the people of South Jersey, not an opportunist who will jump ship when it’s politically convenient.”
Menendez’s support for Harrison comes at a critical time, as six candidates seek the endorsement of the Atlantic County Democrats at their convention next month.
Harrison already has the backing of Democratic county chairs in Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. Atlantic and Ocean are still up for grabs.
She faces competition in Atlantic from Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher and the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), and Atlantic County freeholder Ashley Bennett.
West Cape May commissioner John Francis III, retired FBI agent Robert Turkavage, and Will Cunningham, a former aide to U.S. Senator Cory Booker, are also in the race.
Booker has not endorsed anyone in the race to pick a Van Drew opponent.
Following Van Drew’s vote against starting impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Menendez was the first major Democrat to decline to publicly endorse Van Drew for the Democratic House nomination.
Kennedy’s campaign used the endorsement to slap Democratic powerbroker George Norcross in a statement about the Menendez endorsement that stopped short of even using the senator’s name.
“It’s ironic that on the day Amy Kennedy lays out her aggressive policy to end corruption in New Jersey’s elections, George Norcross flexes his political muscle to bring in an endorsement for Brigid Harrison. Brigid’s name may be on the ballot, but we all know who’s pulling the strings,” said Josh Roesch, Kennedy’s campaign manager. “Make no mistake, rigging endorsements is the Norcross way. He is doing everything in his power to make sure the voters don’t get to choose their own candidate, just like he did for his last favorite candidate, Jeff Van Drew– and look how that turned out for Democrats. Brigid Harrison, Jeff Van Drew, George Norcross, and this entire rigged process are a great illustration of why we need to finally end machine politics in New Jersey.”
This story was updated at 3:02 PM with comment from Roesch.