Assemblyman Joe Howarth is targeting Trump voters in an effort to secure a primary win after Burlington County Republicans dropped him from the party line.
Howarth filed his nominating petitions with the slogan “Burlington County MAGA Republicans.” He had similar slogans for Camden and Atlantic Counties.
On Saturday, Burlington County Republicans endorsed Assemblyman Ryan Peters and Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield, who is retiring from that post in May and running for Howarth’s Assembly seat.
The county party dropped Howarth believing he attempted to join State Sen. Dawn Addiego after she defected to the Democratic party.
His choice of slogan appears to signal Howarth shifting to the right in an effort to survive his primary.
It’s not clear how far Howarth will take the strategy, but there’s also no guarantee it will work, said Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers, a former gubernatorial candidate who was named to Trump’s re-election advisory board in 2017.
“Just because a candidate is running with a MAGA slogan does not mean they are automatically getting the votes of NJ Trump supporters,” Rogers said. “I can tell you firsthand that NJ Trump supporters are very smart and aware of what is at stake in NJ and, let me add, very protective of that slogan.”
There’s also no guarantee Howarth keeps his seat if he wins the June primary.
Though Democrats last won there in 1973, the eighth district will host one of the year’s most competitive elections. Burlington County Democrats have backed Mark Natale and Gina LaPlaca, a former aide to Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts.
Retired U.S. Department of Defense chemical engineer Johnny Bravo is also seeking the Democratic nomination.
“My hope is that all Republicans come together for the good of the party, state and country and work as one cohesive team to defeat the Dem/Socialist party in NJ and in 2020 to-re-elect President Trump,” Rogers said.