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Former Hill International CEO David Richter announced he would challenge freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) in New Jersey’s 2nd district Monday.
“Jeff Van Drew has completely failed South Jersey voters. He spent over a decade supporting the Democratic majority in the state legislature and making New Jersey one of the highest-taxed and most anti-business states in the country,” Richter said. “Now, after running as a conservative Democrat, Van Drew has voted in Washington with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nearly 90% of the time. We need a real conservative in Congress who will work hard for smaller government, lower taxes and secure borders, and who will fight to protect, not undermine, our constitutional rights.”
Richter, 53, currently lives in Princeton. He grew up in South Jersey, not far from the 2nd district boundary. He is expected to move to the district in order to challenge Van Drew.
Richter’s tenure at Hill International, the eighth largest construction firm in the world, gives him the ability to self-fund his challenge against the first-term congressman.
“As a civil engineer with more than two decades of experience in the construction industry, I understand what it takes to get things built,” said Richter. “In Congress, I plan to work hard to ensure the federal government is investing in South Jersey’s infrastructure — expanding our transportation network, keeping our environment clean, and maintaining our coastline.”
Republicans think Van Drew, a right-of-center Democrat who was unbeatable during his 17 years in the New Jersey Legislature, is vulnerable after winning a surprisingly unimpressive 53% against former Atlantic County freeholder Seth Grossman last year.
Grossman’s campaign was harried by the candidate’s controversial statements from the onset of the general election campaign.
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 last year.
Donald Trump won the 2nd district by 14,830 votes (50%-46%) in 2016.
“I have spent the last several months traveling throughout the Second District and speaking with voters,” Richter said. “They feel betrayed by career politicians like Jeff Van Drew and eagerly want someone in Congress who will fight for them, not against them.”
Richter is the third Republican to enter the race to challenge Van Drew. Former Atlantic County Young Republican Chairman Brian Fitzherbert and former Trump administration official Robert Patterson have already announced their candidacies.
Patterson, who served as a senior advisor and acting associate commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration in their Office of Strategic and Digital Communications, is making his second bid for Congress. He won 37% of the vote in the 1st district against Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) in 2016.
Patterson was forced to resign his post in the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett in 2012 after the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that he was simultaneously working as an editor of The Family in America, which advocates for the “natural human family.”
Among Patterson’s provocative statements: he complained that condoms deprive woman of the “remarkable” chemicals found in semen that help elevate mood and self-esteem and argued that “semen-exposed” women have better concentration and cognitive skills.
Birth control, Patterson said, weakens a women’s “natural sense of attraction to men who would be a good biological match and enable her to conceive easily and bear healthy children.”
He also suggested that working mothers is a government-created problem that hurts marriages and “the well-being of children.”
Fitzherbert ran briefly in 2018 and won the endorsement of the Gloucester County Republicans, but his campaign ended when he failed to obtain enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.