Home>Campaigns>Tanzie Youngblood, Van Drew primary opponent in 2018, will run for Assembly

Tanzie Youngblood. (Photo: Tanzie Youngblood via Facebook).

Tanzie Youngblood, Van Drew primary opponent in 2018, will run for Assembly

Progressive Democrat files alongside Mario De Santis in 3rd district

By Joey Fox, March 24 2023 12:15 pm

Tanzie Youngblood, who finished in second place behind now-Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) in a 2018 Democratic congressional primary, has filed petitions to run for the State Assembly this year in the 3rd legislative district.

She joins a slate led by Mario De Santis, also a former congressional candidate, who launched his campaign in February. The second Assembly candidate on their ticket, which will run with the slogan “The Good Democrats,” is Robert Fitzpatrick.

The South Jersey Democratic organization, meanwhile, is backing former Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) for the Senate and Gloucester County Commissioner Heather Simmons (D-Glassboro) and nonprofit CEO David Bailey for the Assembly. They’re aiming to take out State Sen. Ed Durr (R-Logan), who shockingly ousted former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) in 2021. 

If previous progressive-versus-establishment Democratic primaries in South Jersey are any indication, Burzichelli’s slate should win easily. Still, Youngblood’s 2018 congressional campaign shows that she has an existing base of potential support.

That year, when longtime Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor) announced his retirement, South Jersey Democrats quickly rallied around then-State Sen. Van Drew, a proven vote-getter in his competitive legislative district.

But some progressive groups and politicians, alarmed by Van Drew’s conservative leanings on issues like gay marriage and gun control, began casting around for alternatives. Youngblood, a retired teacher, nabbed the endorsement of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and raised $115,000 – not enough to seriously challenge Van Drew, but more than many other off-the-line congressional candidates.

Ultimately, Van Drew won the primary with 57% of the vote to Youngblood’s 19%; two other progressive candidates, Will Cunningham and Nathan Kleinman, took the remainder.

Van Drew, of course, went on to win the general election that November – and then defected to Republicans just a year later. Youngblood, who considered another congressional bid in 2020 but ended up supporting Amy Kennedy instead, said that his party switch proved her primary campaign correct.

“Congratulations to [Van Drew] for finally admitting what we knew: he was all along a Republican,” she said on Twitter. “During our 2018 campaign we had [given] the warning not to allow this ‘Republican masquerading as a Democrat’ to corrupt our primary process… The fact of the matter is that the NJ-02 seat never flipped blue.”

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