Gov. Phil Murphy today refused to clearly say if he still supports Rep. Jeff Van Drew for re-election, as local Democrats in the congressman’s district balk over his opposition to impeachment.
“I continue to support Democrats up and down the ballot,” Murphy told the New Jersey Globe when asked if his July endorsement of the congressman still held. “I’m the titular head of the party, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
A spokesman for the governor said that Murphy’s comment did not mean that he was necessarily standing by endorsement.
Murphy said he and Van Drew did not agree on the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“I don’t know what he’s looking to have come to his conclusion on impeachment,” Murphy said. “I think he’s completely at odds with what the facts are and what should be happening.”
Over recent weeks, the Democratic base in the second congressional district has grown increasingly incensed over Van Drew’s opposition to impeachment.
Only one other Democrat voted against the impeachment inquiry
“I don’t live in his district, but I think he’s got lot in that regard — particularly on the impeachment front — he’s got a lot to explain to his constituents and, it looks like, to his county chairs as well,” Murphy said.
Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman last week warned Van Drew that he could not guarantee the incumbent a primary win if he continued to oppose investigations into Trump’s allegedly withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into his political opponents.
Van Drew was one of only two Democrats to vote against a House resolution establishing procedures for the public portion of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Last Thursday, the congressman told CNN he would vote against all article of impeachment drafted against Trump.
Speculation about defection to GOP
On Tuesday, Democrats released two proposed articles of impeachment, the first charging Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and the second claiming he obstructed congress by ignoring House subpoenas seeking documents and testimony from administration officials.
Those articles could see a full House vote as early as next week.
Van Drew’s obstinacy on the issue is fueling speculation about a possible defection to the Republican party.
That speculation has drawn mixed reactions from Republicans.
Some Republicans — like State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), an honorary chairman of Trump’s New Jersey re-election campaign — have said the right-of-center Democrat should be welcomed into the Republican fold.
Others, including Cape May County Republican Chairman Marcus Karavan, have said Van Drew would find no welcome on their side of the aisle.
Brigid Harrison considering primary challenge
It’s possible that Van Drew will face a primary challenge should he opt to remain a Democrat.
Brigid Harrison, a well-known political professor who lives in Atlantic County, has said she is exploring a bid in the district, and there are months left for other candidates to enter the race.
While his impeachment stance could help him win over some Republicans in a general election, Van Drew will have to weigh that possibility against the risk of driving away portions of his Democratic base.