Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) did not spend time raising funds for his re-election campaign during the first quarter of 2019, instead choosing to build up his constituent services staff and offices in Washington and the second congressional district.
“I thought it was a tiny bit distasteful in the very first weeks and months of my election being in there, that the very first thing I was doing was raising money again,” Van Drew told the New Jersey Globe Friday. “We were in the middle of a closure, a government shutdown. I had real issues with my Coast Guard and with the FAA.”
“We did get little bit of money from some of the PACS, but that isn’t personal, and it’s a different issue. That just came in automatically.”
Van Drew brought in $120,556 during the first quarter, less than any other House Democrat on a 55-member list of Republican target districts, and ended the period with just $80,099 on hand, giving him the second-smallest war chest of the 55 Democrats targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Of the money Van Drew raised in the first quarter, $98,500.00 came from political action committees and committees run by other candidates.
The NRCC saw Van Drew’s lack of funds as proof that the district, which was held by Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo from 1995 until his retirement in 2019, was turning against the right-of-center Democrat.
“Jeff Van Drew’s abysmal fundraising numbers prove NJ-02 residents want nothing to do with him and the extreme agenda the socialist Democrats are pushing,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said. “Van Drew should quit now to save himself more embarrassment.”
The first-term congressman pushed back on that characterization, pointing to editorials by the Press of Atlantic City and other area outlets that praised his quick start on constituent services.
But, Van Drew’s fundraising lull has met its end, and though he did not provide any specific fundraising figures, he said donations from individuals had swelled, adding that many of those individuals were donating the maximum allowed under federal campaign finance law.
“We’re in the second quarter. I am raising money like crazy right now. We’re working hard, and we are going to meet our goal this quarter, and we are going to raise a real good deal of money,” Van Drew said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that this is even a barometer that is used, but let me say this to you simply: I’ve run in I think it’s 17 races now since running for mayor, and I’ve never had a race where I didn’t have enough money to win.”
Before moving to Congress, Van Drew spent 10 years in the State Senate, six years in the General Assembly and more than a decade in a variety of local and county offices.
This also isn’t the first time Van Drew’s fundraising got a late start.
LoBiondo announced his plan to retire on Nov. 7, 2017, the same day voters in the second legislative voted to re-elect Van Drew to his state senate seat. Van Drew announced his congressional bid later that month, on Nov. 29.
“We were well into January before we were really raising any money, which in this game is late. And, we didn’t raise as much — nor would we expect to — as others because we came in so much later,” Van Drew said. “But, we raised over $2 million and, frankly, got less help from certain other groups that help those that are in trouble because our polls showed us significantly ahead.”
Van Drew beat former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman by roughly seven points to win LoBiondo’s seat in 2018.
Republican National Committee withdrew its endorsement of Grossman shortly after his primary win over reports that the attorney had shared an article from a white-supremacist website on Facebook, called Kwanza a fake holiday and called diversity un-American, among other things.
Many Democratic observers viewed Van Drew’s victory as a foregone conclusion.
Republican recruitment for 2020 is looking like it will give Van Drew a tougher race than he had in 2020. GOP self-funder David Richter announced the formation of an exploratory committee last week, but it also looks like national Democrats are keeping a closer eye on Van Drew’s race this time around.
“The DCCC is working with all of our Frontline Members to ensure they have the resources needed to win reelection,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Christine Bennett said.