It’s possible that Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s taking the Republican line on impeachment will draw a primary challenge, but it’s likely not to result in a primary challenge from the left.
“It’s certainly a possibility,” said Micah Rasmussen, director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics. “His district is not in a region of the state where there’s a hotbed of progressive politics, however, it is certainly something that you are hearing grumblings about. It’s something that I think the progressives would like to do. I think if they can, they may.”
While the rest of the state’s congressional delegation has, to some degree, backed the impeachment inquiry House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last week, Van Drew has maintained his opposition to such a move.
In an interview on Fox News on Sunday, the former state senator said Trump had done nothing impeachable and repeated a Republican talking point on former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in the ouster of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor.
“Thank you,” Trump said on Twitter after quoting Van Drew. “Just another Witch Hunt by Nancy Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats!”
Van Drew did not immediately Return an 11:15 a.m. call and voice mail message seeking comment. This article will be updated with comment when it is received.
On Wednesday, the White House released a memo showing President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump told Zelensky, according to the memo. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it.”
The memo is not a transcript and does not reflect a verbatim account of the phone call, though it nonetheless confirms media reports published over the past week that said Trump sought to push a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Biden or his son.
While progressive Democrats scored a single win against Camden County’s Democratic machine when they took control of the Collingswood Democratic Municipal Committee earlier this year, their efforts elsewhere in the county were stymied.
Still, that victory came by itself, and it came in a staunchly-Democratic area of the state. The portions of Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland Counties covered by Van Drew’s congressional district lean much further to the right, and it’s possible that Van Drew’s stance on impeachment will actually help him fend off a Republican challenger next year.
“I think it is definitely on-brand for Jeff to be seen as somebody who’s independent of party considerations. It’s how he has spent his entire career. It’s how he made his bones in a Republican county,” Rasmussen said. “So, I think making the Republican party comfortable with his politics is how he’s been as effective as he’s been. Does that help him? does it once again demonstrate that he’s willing to buck his party? Yes, it does.”
The right-of-center Democrat made a name for himself in Trenton by voting to the right of his party and by often acting independent of its messaging.
But, he’s in Congress now, and it’s not yet clear how much leeway the district’s Democratic voters for going past the wait-and-see stance adopted by Democrats like Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
“I think that’s all one thing and that shows that level of independence. It’s quite another to say that Joe Biden may have done something wrong,” Rasmussen said. “There’s no evidence of that outside of the Republican talking point at this point, and yet Jeff went there, and I think that’s where he has the potential to cause himself a little bit of trouble.”