Cumberland County Republican Chairman Michael Testa said he would take his queues on Rep. Jeff Van Drew from President Donald Trump following the congressman’s defection to the GOP.
“I’ll say this much: As co-chair of President Trump’s New Jersey campaign, I will certainly follow the lead of the president of the United States and the commander in chief,” Testa said.
Testa is an honorary chairman of Trump’s New Jersey re-election campaign.
State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, who is also an honorary chair of Trump’s state re-election campaign, welcomed Van Drew into the party after news of his impending defection broke Saturday.
Testa last week declined to say whether he’d welcome Van Drew, a longtime political opponent, into the fold.
Van Drew’s switch comes after an ebbing of Democratic support fueled by the congressman’s opposition to impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Some of the state’s top Democrats — including Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez — declined to endorse Van Drew for re-election, and Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman warned the freshman that he could not guarantee him a primary win if he refused to back impeachment.
Republican support for Van Drew’s defection has been mixed. While some county chairs in the second congressional district have regarded the switch with a degree of skepticism, some local Republican officials, including ones that have fought Van Drew for decades, have wholeheartedly embraced the congressman.
News of Van Drew’s switch came after a meeting with Trump, and it’s likely that the White House, which benefits from the optics of a Democratic congressman leaving the party over impeachment, will work to clear the field for Van Drew.
That’ll likely earn him party support in the swing district, but so far, the three Republican candidates that were in the race last week — David Richter, Brian Fitzherbert and Robert Patterson — are staying in the race.