David Richter, the former CEO of one of the nation’s largest construction firms, is considering a self-funded challenge to freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) in New Jersey’s 2nd district next year.
He is attending the NJGOP Summit in Atlantic City this weekend to meet with county chairmen and other party leaders as a run for Congress.
Richter spent 22 years at Hill International, the construction firm founded by his father in 1976. Hill grew to become the 8th largest construction company in the United States.
The 52-year-old Richter grew up in Burlington County and now lives in Princeton, but he appears willing to move his family into the 2nd district to run against Van Drew.
Republicans think Van Drew, unbeatable during his seventeen years in the New Jersey Legislature, is vulnerable after winning a surprisingly unimpressive 53% against former Atlantic County freeholder Seth Grossman last year.
The right-of-center Van Drew could also face a primary challenge. The 65-year-old former state senator won the Democratic nomination with 57% against three progressive challengers.
Donald Trump won the 2nd district by 14,830 votes (50%-46%) in 2016.
The seat was held for 24 years by Republican Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor), who did not seek re-election in 2018.
Van Drew raised nearly $1.9 million in his last campaign, considerably less than three other New Jersey Democrats who flipped Republican House seats in the mid-term elections.
If he runs, Richter would be positioned to spend millions on his campaign.
Now the chairman of Richter Capital, an asset management firm he founded two years ago, Richter was the president of Hill from 2004 to 2014 and the CEO from 2014 to 2017. During his time at Hill, the company grew from a private firm with 300 employees to a public company with more than 4,300 employees.
Richter would likely face criticism for carpetbagging. While the district touches a tiny part of Burlington County, he has never lived anywhere near the 2nd, which includes all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties and parts of Camden, Gloucester and Ocean.
The carpetbagger issue has not played well in recent New Jersey campaigns.
In 2018, Leonard Lance criticized Tom Malinowski for moving from Washington to the 7th district to run for Congress. Malinowski, who grew up just outside the district in Princeton, won by 16,4000 votes. Tamara Harris attacked Mikie Sherrill as a carpetbagger, even though her home in Montclair was just blocks outside the lines of the 11th district.
Both Malinowski and Sherrill established residency in their districts early in their campaigns.
Richter has not been a big donor to political campaigns in the past, something that could work to his advantage.
He donated $2,700 to Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, but nothing to Trump or former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that cycle.
His federal contributions to Republicans like Jon Runyan, Diane Allen, Jim Saxton, Tom MacArthur, Bob Franks and Joe Kyrillos won’t offend anyone.
The father of four daughters, Richter is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received degrees in management from the Wharton School and in civil engineering. He remained at Penn for law school and received degrees from Oxford and Harvard.
He spent three years practicing law at Weil Gotshal before joining Hill in 1995.