The Burlington County Republican Committee formalized its support of former freeholder Kate Gibbs’ 3rd district congressional bid Saturday.
It also gave the county line to David Richter in the 2nd district and to Claire Gustafson in the 1st.
The convention came several months earlier than normal. Burlington Republican Chairman Sean Earlen said he wanted to give the county’s Republican candidates as much time as possible to organize against the county’s three Democratic House members.
“The reason we’ve decided to do it so early is we’ve got three incumbents on he other side that are moving very fast and snowballing their efforts in terms of working the county, working the district, fundraising — all very important things,” he said. “We want to get behind our candidates as soon as we can because we want to get these guys and gals the opportunity to do the same thing.”
While Burlington accounts for relatively small portions of the first and second districts—whoever wins the Republican nod in the latter district can expect just a few hundred votes out of Burlington next November—the county accounts for roughly half of the votes in the third district.
So far, Gibbs, a rising Republican star who lost her seat on a freeholder board where Democrats now hold a 5-0 majority last year, faces a single primary challenge from Barnegat Township Deputy Mayor John Novak.
Gibbs is considered the favorite to win the nod to run against Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton).
Richter faces two primary challengers in his bid to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis).
Brian Fitzherbert, who ran for the seat last year but was knocked of the ballot after a challenge to his nominating petitions, and Robert Patterson, a former aide to President Donald Trump who has said condoms deprive women of “remarkable” chemicals found in semen, are also seeking the Republican nod there.
Gustafson, a former Collingswood School Board member, faces Josh Duvall as a primary opponent.
Duvall, a financial planner who entered the contest for Rep. Donald Norcross’s seat in May, lost the party line to a candidate who has been in the race officially for less than a week.
Democrats are expected to win easily in the first district, where they have a registration lead of about 150,000. Republicans haven’t won there since 1972.
Saturday’s convention focused only on House candidates. Earlen said the organization will call another convention next year to hand out the rest of the county lines.
“We’re going to look to do it again as the Senate field and the freeholder field starts to get set,” he said. We’ll start to do that a little bit in the new year as well.”