Assemblyman Ryan Peters and Former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield are using Assemblyman Joe Howarth’s own words against him.
The two party-backed candidates have issued a mailer highlighting Facebook post criticizing Presdient Donald Trump that Howarth made in 2015 to undermine the incumbent’s off-the-line bid as a Trump Republican.
“The more you get to know him, the more he will lose ground….it’s still your vote,” Howarth wrote in 2015, quoting a video posted by then Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who was sharing an anti-Trump video.
Burlington County Republicans dropped their support for Howarth earlier this year over a belief that the Assemblyman attempted to join State Sen. Dawn Addiego when she defected to the Democratic party earlier this year.
Though Howarth denies attempting to switch parties, sources of both sides of the aisle have told the New Jersey Globe that he attempted to defect along with his former running mate, but those plans were waylaid by local Democrats in Burlington, who said they would not back Howarth in this year’s primaries.
Since then, Howarth has chosen to mount an off-the-line bid as a MAGA Republican in an effort to secure a primary win against the county-backed candidates.
He’s even sent around a mailing questioning whether Peters and Stanfield will be the next Republicans to switch their party alignment.
The Republican primary contest in the eighth district is growing increasingly hostile.
A source told the New Jersey Globe that Howarth has sent out at least nine negative mailers targeting the two county-backed candidates.
It’s likely that Howarth will end up running alongside either Peters or Stanfield even if he wins the Republican nod for the general.
Howarth is running alone, and though a fourth candidate, Jason Huf, is also seeking the Republican nomination, his campaign lacks the resources and name recognition of either Howarth and the county-backed slate.
It’s also possible that the infighting ends up harming whoever ends up running against Democratic candidates Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale in November.
The eighth district is set to host one of the year’s most competitive Assembly races.
In 2017, Howarth and Peters defeated Democratic candidates there by a few hundred votes, winning their seats by less than a point.
With Assembly candidates at the top of the ticket, turnout is expected to be lower than it was in 2017, and even small hiccups could upend the result.
Primary day is now less than a week away.
Polls open at 6 a.m. on June 4.