Jeff Van Drew faces the most serious fight of his campaign for Congress so far when a decidedly more liberal Atlantic County Democratic Committee meets this afternoon to award the organization line in the largest county in the 2nd district.
Atlantic is the only county where progressive activists think they have any chance at denying an establishment endorsement to Van Drew.
Insiders say that Van Drew, a right-of-center State Senator from Cape May County, is still the favorite to win the organization vote, but that a victory is no sure thing. Van Drew has been under attack for his voting record as a 17-year state legislator, which includes a 100% rating from the National Rifle Association and opposition to same-sex marriage.
Van Drew was supposed to have a clear path to flip the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, but he’s finding an aggressive primary challenge from Tanzie Youngblood, as well as teacher Sean Thom and former Cory Booker staffer Will Cunningham.
Atlantic County makes up 41% of the Democratic primary voters, and so far, it’s the only county Van Drew is struggling in. He has – or will have – the other seven lines in the district. His political base is Cape May and Cumberland, which represents 30% of the primary vote. 15% of the primary votes come out of Gloucester, where he has the backing of powerful Senate President Steve Sweeney.
In the legislature, Van Drew represents three small towns in Atlantic. The rest of the county is new terrain for him.
Despite Van Drew’s non-traditional Democratic voting record, he is popular among all voters in the 1st legislative district. A Republican poll taken when he ran for re-election to the State Senate in 2013 showed his favorable at 73%-10% among Democrats, 41%-41% among Republicans, and 45%-20% among Independents.