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Democratic House candidate Amy Kennedy, left, with Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Murphy, Kennedy stay in touch following 2020 loss

Unclear if political scion will mount repeat bid next year

By Nikita Biryukov, July 12 2021 3:06 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy has stayed in touch with Amy Kennedy since her unsuccessful bid for Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s (R-Dennis) seat in the House of Representatives.

But the two don’t talk frequently of a rematch in 2022.

“I speak to Amy a lot. I haven’t spoken to her in the past number of weeks, so I’ll leave those conversations private, but that has not been a regular topic of discussion with her,” Murphy said at Monday’s virus briefing. “I continue to think the world of her, just think the world of her.”

Kennedy handily won the second district’s Democratic primary, winning with 62% of the vote despite most of the district’s Democratic county organizations backing political science professor Brigid Harrison for the seat.

Well-funded and backed by one of the country’s most prominent political dynasties, Kennedy entered the general election well-positioned to take a seat the party had won two years earlier, when Van Drew defeated former Atlantic County freeholder Seth Grossman as a Democrat.

But Van Drew, whose political career has most often hinged on the strength of his own brand, won his first campaign as a Republican, defeating Kennedy by about six points and a little less than 22,000 votes. That means he outperformed former President Donald Trump, who won the district over President Joe Biden by about three points.

The future of the district remains uncertain. Despite being tied six to six in 2016, Republicans are down to holding just two of New Jersey’s 12 House seats. With lines set to be redrawn this year, it’s not likely the second district will be made friendlier to Democrats.

Still, Kennedy has remained visible in South Jersey since her 2020 loss, though it’s unclear whether she is willing to mount another campaign.

Van Drew won his 2018 race by about eight points. Then a right-of-center Democrat, the congressman eschewed criticism of Trump favored by some of his colleagues in the New Jersey delegation early into his first term, even when Democrats moved to impeach Trump for his bid to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden.

Van Drew, used to winning elections in a red-leaning district, was one of just two Democrats to vote against the articles of impeachment drafted against Trump. By that point, news of his impending defection to the Republican Party had already broken.

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