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Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) will almost certainly face a Democratic primary challenge if he votes against impeaching President Donald Trump and could lose contests for organization lines at county conventions early next year, six Democratic leaders told the New Jersey Globe.
One possible challenger is Brigid Callahan Harrison, a prominent Montclair University political science professor with strong times to New Jersey’s 2nd district. Harrison told InsiderNJ that she would think about running.
Van Drew is taking heat in New Jersey for being one of two Democratic congressmen to vote against the House impeachment inquiry last month.
If he reverses his position and votes with the rest of his caucus to impeach Trump, Van Drew could avoid a primary.
“What has struck me is the incredible anger out there,” Harrison told the Globe. “There is a rabid sense that people should have access to the information.”
Harrison says that Van Drew read his district incorrectly.
“People want to know whether or not the allegations made about the president were true,” Harrison said.
If Van Drew votes against the Trump impeachment, some Democrats suggested that he should either retire or switch parties.
It’s not immediately clear whether Republicans would want him.
“I think he’s a Democrat and he should stay a Democrat”, said Cape May County GOP Chairman Marcus Karavan.
So far, three Republicans have entered the race to run against Van Drew: former Hill International CEO David Richter, former Trump administration appointee Robert Patterson, and former Atlantic County Young Republican Chairman Brian Fitzpatrick.
Joseph “Rudy” Rullo, who sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2017, told the Globe today that he is considering a congressional run.
“Van Drew was quoted in nj.com yesterday saying if anything changes he may change his vote,” Rullo said. “I’m already straight on with this opportunistic politician who hasn’t fooled anyone yet. I can’t sit idly by pretending this Trenton swamp monster has somehow transformed himself into a Republican.”
The 2nd has 17,270 more Democrats than Republicans and gave Trump a 50%-46% win over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Local anger toward the Cape May Democrat led to an erosion of support for three Democratic legislators running as the Van Drew Team who lost their seats to Republican challengers, although upside-down approval ratings for Gov. Phil Murphy likely contributed to the defeat.
Two Democratic assemblymen, Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and Adam Taliaferro (D-Woolwich), were mentioned by a South Jersey Democratic leader as potential primary challengers to Van Drew.
If Harrison runs, it would be her second bid for public office.
She ran a strong race for Atlantic County Freeholder in 1993, at age 28. She defeated Anice Dickerson in the Democratic primary with 78%. In the general election, she ran just 4,216 votes behind Republican incumbent Kenneth LeFevre.
Harrison wrote an Op-Ed for the Star-Ledger on Sunday that could be a blueprint for a congressional bid.
Van Drew flipped the 2nd district seat last year following the retirement of twelve-term Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor). He won the Democratic primary with 57% against three challengers, and the general election by a 53%-45% margin against former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman.
In 1974, four-term Rep. Charles Sandman (R-Cape May Court House) was a staunch defender of President Richard M. Nixon as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during their consideration of impeachment. He lost his bid for re-election.
Nixon had won the 2nd district two years earlier with 66% of the vote.
The last New Jersey congressman to be denied party support for re-election in a non-redistricting year was Joseph LeFante (D-Bayonne), a former Assembly Speaker who won an open seat in 1976. Hudson County Democrats dropped him from their ticket in 1978 and replaced him with Frank Guarini (D-Jersey City).