State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), the co-chairman of Donald Trump’s New Jersey campaign, said he’d welcome Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) if the latter decided to defect from the Democratic Party.
“I know fellow dentist, former state senator, former state assemblyman,” Pennacchio said. “I’ve known him for years, a doctor who, in my view, should be welcomed.”
Van Drew’s chief distinction as a first-term Democratic congressman has come from his support of Trump and his opposition to the investigations against him.
In October, the former state senator was one of only two Democrats in the House to vote against a resolution establishing procedures for the public portion of the impeachment inquiry against Trump, and he has repeatedly appeared on national television to lambast the impeachment proceedings.
Most recently, he told CNN he would vote against all articles of impeachment.
Van Drew’s stance on the issue has forced Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman to warn him that he could not guarantee the freshman a primary win next year absent a yes vote on impeachment.
While the second congressional district is a moderate one by New Jersey’s standards, Van Drew’s Democratic base has shown none of the animus Republicans point at the impeachment proceedings.
Local Democrats, Suleiman said, were displeased with Van Drew’s impeachment votes.
The irritation was strong enough that many of the district’s county chairmen declined to sign a letter backing Van Drew’s re-election.
In the wake of the intra-party conflict, some of the second district’s Republican leaders have indicated they would not welcome Van Drew with open arms.
Cape May County Republican Chairman Marcus Karavan said Van Drew should stay a Democrat, and David Richter, one of three Republicans seeking the nod in the second, said he would remain in the race if Van Drew crossed the aisle permanently.
Other Republicans are less wary.
“Think of why we want to welcome him, because he’s just applying reason to this issue. He hasn’t gone off the wall. He hasn’t made a sharp left turn and driven himself and the rest of that Democrat caucus off the cliff,” Pennacchio said. “So, here’s a person that, because he’s being reasonable, he’s being praised. We should have more people with reason in Congress.”