Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) is facing allegations of attempted voter suppression from primary challenger Bob Patterson after a campaign mailer that incorrectly said there was no in-person voting in the state’s July 7 Republican primary.
“It is blatantly false, yes. Anyone can stick it into google and see that there will be in-person voting,” Patterson spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “I suppose it’s either gross incompetence, which is not really an excuse, or he is trying to suppress the vote in some way. He’s clearly the kind of person who’s desperate to hold onto his seat no matter what.”
Van Drew was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2018 but defected to the Republican Party in December after losing support among the party’s rank and file over his opposition to impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Patterson, a former Trump aide, is the only one of three candidates who were seeking the nod to take on Van Drew to remain in the race following the defection.
Brian Fitzherbert dropped his bid, and David Richter is running in the third district instead. Both have endorsed Van Drew.
The incumbent’s campaign said the mailer’s inaccuracy was a matter of definitions.
Though every registered Republican and Democrat in the state will receive a mail-in ballot, voters will be able to cast provisional ballots at a limited number of in-person polling places on July 7. They won’t, however, be able to cast their ballots using a voting machine, and most voters’ normal polling places will likely be closed.
“We know what Phil Murphy’s absurd executive order means for Election Day voting, but apparently Bob Patterson does not,” Van Drew campaign manager Ron Filan said. “I’m not sure why he would be encouraging Republicans to show up to an empty building and only be limited to provisional voting on July 7th. Seems like Bob Patterson is trying to depress the vote, not encourage it.”
The mailer also calls Van Drew a “warrior for President Trump” and pledges that the congressman will “oppose radical Democrats and protect the America you know and love.”
“That’s pretty hysterical considering that, just a few months ago, he was voting against every single one of President Trump’s major initiatives — the border wall, cracking down on illegal immigration, pro-life legislation,” Soloveichik said. “Van Drew voted with liberals on all those things”
While Van Drew was often given a pass on politically-sensitive bills in the more than 12 years he served as a right-of-center Democratic state senator, he saw few such accommodations in the House, and he often toed the party line on immigration issues at the national level.
But, that wasn’t a problem for Trump, who benefited greatly from the optics of a Democrat leaving the party over a belief that it had lost its way on impeachment.
The president has backed Van Drew, and the incumbent also has the backing of the district’s Republican county organizations.
“Every time Bob Patterson opens his mouth, he either completely humiliates himself or outright lies to voters. Here are the facts: Congressman Van Drew’s conservative record and principled leadership is why President Trump clearly, unequivocally, and repeatedly endorsed Congressman Van Drew — as recently as last week,” Filan said. “Conversely, I am not sure if the President could pick Bob Patterson out of a lineup.”