Some Democrats in the second congressional district aren’t falling into step with a strategy being pushed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The DCCC on Monday sent out a series of press releases attempting to link House candidates around to state, including Rep. Leonard Lance, Assemblyman Jay Webber and Rep. Chris Smith, to Seth Grossman and statements the candidate made decrying diversity and calling Kwanza a fake holiday, among other such statements.
But the district’s Democrats aren’t falling into step with that strategy, and that’s true for State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis), the district’s Democratic candidate, as well.
“I’ve always been one that believes every individual should stand up for what they believe,” Van Drew said. “I’ve never liked – just the reverse, ‘oh a Democrat somewhere in Idaho did something really foolish and therefore Jeff Van Drew is responsible for the same thing.’ I don’t necessarily always agree with that. Stand up for what you believe is right, whether you agree with your party or not.”
Van Drew, a right-of-center Democrat who has gained popularity among Republican moderates, said that didn’t mean he condoned Grossman’s statements.
The Congressman even took a small jab at Grossman over his beliefs on Kwanza.
“I think that Kwanza is a nice holiday where people can celebrate their heritage and their history and their love for the places that they originally came from,” Van Drew said. “And there’s never anything wrong with that.”
The state senator is considered a strong favorite in the race but stranger victories have been won in the past.
And for Grossman, a candidate whose fundraising has thus far been lackluster at best, the name id that comes from his beliefs could prove to be a boon if they don’t alienate votes in the district.
“He said all the attention is doing him good,” Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena Vista Township) said, referring to Grossman. “I personally don’t think that. I think that maybe he should reevaluate his ideas, come into the present time, so to speak.”
The statements have garnered Grossman national news coverage, and though the coverage is largely negative, such negative stories did little to stop President Donald Trump, whom Grossman wholly supports and – to a degree – emulates, from winning in 2016.
Still, New Jersey’s electorate is different to the electorate of the country as a whole, and while the second congressional district’s house seat has long been held by Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, the district has tended to flip in presidential election years.
Trump won the district in 2016, but President Barack Obama won it in 2012 and 2008.
LoBiondo and local Republicans keeping their seats through the Obama years could indicate that an unpopular congressional candidate’s impact on local races could be limited.
But Van Drew was hesitant to predict such an effect. The district’s voters, he said, don’t just vote down the line.
“Our turnouts are high, which means they really look at the candidates, and it is amazing to look sometimes at the ballot, and you’ll see it’s like a puzzle,” Van Drew said, moving a finger in a zig-zagging motion. “They move around.”