David Richter is taking on one of the state’s most pro-Republican building trades unions in his bid to take on freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) in New Jersey’s 3rd district.
He faces labor leader Kate Gibbs, a former Burlington County freeholder director who works for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, in the Republican primary.
Richter wants Gibbs to return more than $10,000 she received from members of her union, claiming the Operating Engineers oppose President Donald Trump. He also wants her to reject any help from the union.
“Kate Gibbs has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the same union bosses that tried to undermine the election of President Trump,” Richter said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.
The move could put Richter at odds with other Republicans who have been the beneficiary of help from Local 825.
Richter attacked Local 825 business manager Greg Lalevee for backing Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election, labeling him as anti-Trump.
“While I was speaking in support of President Trump and his Keep America Great agenda last Tuesday in Wildwood, Kate Gibbs was hoping no one discovered that she reports to work every day to advance the agenda of a bunch of Never-Trumpers, and whose own campaign has been bank-rolled by the same pro-Hillary Clinton organization,” said Richter.
Trump appears to have patched things up with the Operating Engineers and visited their training center in Texas last month.
That won him some praise from IUOE general president James T. Callahan.
Last year, the Operating Engineers play a massive role in re-electing Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), spending more than $400,000 to get him through the toughest campaign of his career.
The union endorsed five other Republican legislative candidates in 2019, including Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany).
DeCroce criticized Richter for his attack on Local 825.
“He’s being short-sighted and narrow-minded,” DeCroce said. “Give me a break.”
In 2018, the Operating Engineers endorsed two-term Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) in his race against Kim. They also backed Reps. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) and Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township).
Richter, the former Hill International CEO, entered the 3rd district race late last month after initially running in the 1st district against Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis). Van Drew switched parties in December and most Republicans, including Trump, publicly endorsed him.
Gibb’s campaign manager slammed Richter for attacking the union, and for his relationship with former vice president Joe Biden’s brother.
“If the new Richter campaign strategy is to attack a trade labor union that President Trump himself personally visited and praised, he might need a new strategy,” said Angelo Lamberto. “Given that David Richter was business partners with Joe Biden’s corrupt brother – and then bragged about how it landed him government contracts – it’s stunning that he would even make this bogus attack against Kate Gibbs, who has been on the frontlines fighting to elect South Jersey Republicans for the last decade while Richter just parachutes in when it suits his ambition.”
An subsidiary of Hill International hired Biden’s brother, James, to executive vice president.
“Listen, his name helps him get in the door, but it doesn’t help him get business,” a Hill executive said, according to a POLITICO report. “People who have important names tend to get in the door easier but it doesn’t mean success. If he had the name Obama he would get in the door easier.”
This story was updated at 2:21 PM with comment from Lamberto.