State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) said he likes his chances in the race to fill retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s congressional seat.
Van Drew, a right-of-center Democrat who won lines from all eight of the district’s county Democratic organizations, seemed to consider a primary victory all bust assured.
The senator, now in his third term in a legislative district where there are close to 4,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats, has considerable support in his home district, where his victory margin has grown each term. He won re-election by 31 points last year.
“That’s an area where Republicans would go, in all honesty, to say ‘well, gee, we might not be doing so well in certain pieces of the district, but we know that we can come here,’” he said, referring to his legislative district. “Those folks are very open-minded to me and have been for many years. I’ve been their freeholder and their assemblyman and their mayor and, now, their senator, and that helps me a great deal.”
But his celebration might be premature. Even if he comes out of the primary victorious, a victory there might not come without collateral damage.
Van Drew is competing with three progressives – Nathan Kleinman, a former Pennsylvania House candidate and notable Occupy activist, William Cunningham, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, and Tanzie Youngblood, a progressive who has staked her campaign on a wave of anti-Trump sentiment – for the Democratic nomination.
A primary that turns nasty could spell trouble in November for Van Drew, who has already come under fire from Democrats for his stances on guns and marriage equality, among other issues.
Though Van Drew’s district may lean to the right, Democrats edge Republicans in voter registration, and depressed turnout due to a lack of enthusiasm could keep a GOP candidate in a seat that Republicans have held for 24 years.
Youngblood, who in February told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was a candidate with “nothing to lose,” could prove particularly troublesome. If Youngblood attempts to link Van Drew to Republicans of President Donald Trump, the effort could hurt the candidate in the November midterms, when opposition party turnout and enthusiasm is generally high.
But, things aren’t quite that simple. The Republicans in Van Drew’s district like him, and while conflict in the primaries might keep some liberal democrats away from the polls in November, the same might energize Van Drew’s conservative voters.
Still, Van Drew seems unconcerned at the prospect, even though he has already faced attacks from some of his fellow Democrats.
“They said some mean things already,” he said, referring to his primary opponents. “We have a couple people running against me, and that’s fine if that’s how they want to do it. You’ll notice that I haven’t said anything derogatory or negative about them. I’m really more focused now on moving forward and really getting ready for the general.”