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Van Drew plays carpetbagger card against Richter

Attacks on residency have had limited success in recent elections

By David Wildstein, August 13 2019 3:58 pm

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Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) is already raising money off the announcement that the wealthy former CEO of one of the nation’s largest construction companies will run against him in 2020, and it took him just a few hours to raise the carpetbagger issue.

“A self-funding Republican opponent just launched their campaign for New Jersey’s 2nd District,” the Van Drew campaign wrote in an e-mail appeal for funds.  “And here’s the kicker: the candidate doesn’t even live in the district.”

David Richter announced on Monday that he will seek the Republican nomination in a district that elected a GOP congressman for 24 years before Van Drew flipped it in 2018.

Richter grew up in Burlington County, about ten miles outside the current 2nd district lines, although he’s lived in Princeton since 2008.  He and his family are currently looking at homes in the district and plans to relocate there soon.

Van Drew has been living in the 2nd district for more than 30 years, although he grew up in North Jersey.  Van Drew attended public schools in Paterson and Perth Amboy.

So far, both of Richter’s primary opponents are 2nd district transplants.

Brian Fitzherbert grew up in Ringwood and now lives in Somers Point.  Robert Patterson lives in Camden County, also near the 2nd district.  He worked for the Trump administration and ran against Rep. Donald Norcross (C-Camden) in the neighboring 1st district in 2016.

The carpetbagger issue has not worked in New Jersey in recent years.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) currently lives in the neighboring 10th district, where Donald Payne is her congressman.  Her hometown is split into two congressional districts and after becoming a candidate, her family rented a house in the 11th.  She announced in March that her lease had expired and she was moving back into the 10th while her home is up for sale.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) tried to use the issue against Tom Malinowski, who moved from Washington – he was an Assistant U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration — to Rocky Hill in 2017 to run for Congress.  Malinowski grew up in Princeton, which is next door to the current boundaries of the district.

The 3rd district was the carpetbagger capital of New Jersey.  After Rep. Jon Runyan (R-Mount Laurel), a Michigan native, decided to leave Congress in 2014, former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur moved from Morris County to Toms River and beat former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in the GOP primary.

MacArthur was beaten in 2108 by Andy Kim, who grew up in Marlton and moved back in 2017 to run for Congress after working on the Obama White House staff.

Back in 1984, when Rep. Edwin Forsythe (R-Moorestown) retired, State Sen. Jim Saxton (R-Bordentown) won a hotly contested primary fight even though his hometown was in Rep. Chris Smith’s district.

In 1998, Mike Ferguson ran for Congress in the 3rd district against Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) and was planning for a 2000 rematch when a Republican House seat opened up in the 7th.  Ferguson moved from Monmouth to Somerset and won election to Congress.

Josh Gottheimer grew up in North Caldwell and worked in the Clinton White House.  He moved to Wyckoff three years before ousting Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) in 2016.

Last year, POLITICO senior politics editor Charlie Mahtesian nails the issue: “Carpetbagging barely matters anymore in the House. Most places have too many newcomers/transients to care, and in many states computer-assisted gerrymandering obliterated the idea of communities of interest where deep local ties are important.”

There is a line in the sand when it comes to residency issues.

Earlier this year, Republican Reinier Prijten announced that he would challenge Sherrill in 2020 and said he would soon move from Los Angles to Morristown to make the race.  Prijten had never lived in New Jersey before.

Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, St. Mary’s High School in Perth Amboy, Class of 1971
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