Barnegat Mayor John Novak I still seeking the Republican nod to take on Andy Kim amid a public health crisis that has halted in-person campaigning.
“Here’s what’s going on. Petitions will be submitted by the deadline,” Novak said.
Novak is mounting an off the line primary challenge to former Hill International CEO David Richter and former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs.
Gibbs has the line in her home county, while Richter has organizational support in Ocean County.
Burlington Republicans awarded their county line months ago, when Richter was running against Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), who was still a Democrat at the time, in the second congressional district.
Earlier this month, Richter narrowly defeated Gibbs to win organizational support in Ocean, beating the screening committee-endorsed candidate 68-60.
Novak initially sought the line but withdrew himself from consideration at the convention, citing back room dealings he believed sullied the process.
The restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 will likely help incumbents, well-funded candidates and those with organizational support.
Novak is none of those.
He raised $42,300 in the first two months after launching his congressional bid, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Gibbs raised $142,903 that quarter, and Richter has pledged to put at least $1 million of his own money into the race.
Still, the mayor has a strategy to pull out an underdog win.
“We’ve tailored back on ads and spending money because what money I have left from the donors, from what people have invested in this, I have to save that for the primary,” he said.
On top of delaying spending until it’s more effective, the candidate is running to the right of his primary opponents.
So far, he’s focused on issues like gun and abortion rights in an effort to win votes with the district’s conservative Republicans.
“I think that once conservatives go to the booth and say ‘who has a platform, who is unabashedly and unashamed to take the positions that I believe in,’” he said. “I’m hoping that with the funds I have left and funds that keep trickling in, I can get that message out to the people, and it’s going to be the message — not the fact that I’m male or female, not the fact that I have a lot of money to fund my own campaign.”