State Senator Jeff Van Drew scored a tighter-than-expected victory in his race to replace retiring Rep. Frank Lobiondo.
Van Drew defeated Republican candidate Seth Grossman, a former Atlantic County freeholder, by about six points, getting 122,562 votes to the Republican’s 108,822.
The race in the second congressional district was a case study in unforced error. Shortly after he won the primary in June, a progressive group released a video showing Grossman making comments calling diversity un-American.
Those comments and ones the candidate made shortly thereafter caused the Republican National Committee to rescind its endorsement of Grossman.
That didn’t stop or even deflate Grossman, but it also didn’t prevent him from continuing to make political missteps that did nothing but impede his chances of upsetting the right-of-center Democrat.
He told members of a local NAACP chapter that the Klu Klux Klan did not exist after the civil war and claimed Democrats were to blame for its revival. He compared the sexual assault allegations made against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the lynchings of black and Jewish men in the 1900s.
Van Drew mostly stayed out of those controversies, opting to let his opponent’s words speak for themselves rather than try to capitalize on them and risk a misstep of his own.
Grossman did have a strategy: Appeal to Trump voters.
That plan was a good one. Trump won the district by about five points in 2016, and LoBiondo had held the seat since 1995.
But, that support proved not to be enough to overcome the negative coverage his statements received and the financial struggles of his campaign.
Van Drew, who has made a name for himself as a right-leaning Democrat during his 16 years in the state’s legislature, raised more than six times as much money as Grossman. He brought in about $1.7 million, while Grossman drew in a meager $240,000.