The National Republican Congressional Committee attacked House candidate Amy Kennedy over comments she made in support of the “Defund the Police” movement.
“Amy Kennedy’s support for the radical ‘Defund the Police’ movement puts South Jersey law enforcement and communities at risk and proves she can’t be trusted to keep voters safe,” NRCC Spokesman Michael McAdams said.
The movement’s aim is to push some police funding to community and social welfare organizations while giving those groups some responsibilities currently handled by police.
Polls have repeatedly shown the slogan to be an unpopular one — support for “defunding the police” trailed opposition to the same by roughly 30 points in at least three polls released in mid-June — but voters are far more willing to back the same policies Kennedy backed once they’re divorced from the slogan.
“I think that there’s a lot of merit to what we’re hearing around the country when we talk about how we should be reallocating funds to make healthy communities,” Kennedy said during a mid-June candidate forum hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
A poll conducted last month showed overwhelming support, 61%-16%, for having police focus on violent crimes while having other organizations handle issues related to mental health, homelessness and addiction.
In her response, Kennedy didn’t even say the words “defund the police,” instead, she adopted the more popular framing.
“That safety does not just come from a police force,” she said during the forum. “That safety in a community comes from housing. It comes from support of mental health. It comes from having access to health care it comes from high quality education, and that when we can invest in these things, we’ll see safer communities.”
It remains to be seen whether moderate voters in the second congressional district will pick up on the distinction, but Kennedy’s campaign is focused on making sure they do.
“The NRCC is trying to mislead voters in a desperate attempt to attack Amy, because they know that Amy is heading into the general election against Jeff Van Drew with momentum and overwhelming grassroots support,” Kennedy campaign manager Josh Roesch said. “Amy has been clear in her support for necessary reforms to our criminal justice system as well as investments in programs, on top of traditional policing, that would help keep our communities safe.”
Kennedy is running to oust Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), who was elected as a Democrat in 2018 but defected to the Republican party in December after losing support from rank-and-file Democrats over his opposition to impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
“While Jeff Van Drew has been in Washington, DC serving his own political self-interest, Amy has been here in the district where her family has lived for four generations, serving the people of South Jersey and fighting for the issues they care about including access to affordable health care and rebuilding our economy,” Roesch said.