Now-Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew defeated Democrat Amy Kennedy to represent New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District in the US House of Representatives, according to Decision Desk HQ.
Before his foray into national politics, Van Drew was a dentist for 30 years and served on the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders and in the New Jersey state legislature. He also served as a member of the General Assembly from 2002 to 2008 and in the State Senate from 2008 to 2018.
In 2018, Van Drew defeated Republican Seth Grossman by 7.7%. He switched his party ties from Democrat to Republican just one day after voting against the impeachment of President Donald Trump in December 2019.
“This is who I am, it’s who I always was, but there was more tolerance of moderate Democrats, of Blue Dog Democrats, of conservative Democrats,” Van Drew said, “and I think that’s going away.”
Kennedy, Van Drew’s challenger, is the current president of The Kennedy Forum, a behavioral and mental health non-profit. Kennedy is also a board member of Mental Health America. She is the wife of Patrick J. Kennedy, a nephew of former US President John F. Kennedy and former longtime Democratic congressman from Rhode Island. Her campaign platform is centered on strengthening the Affordable Care Act, affordable college educations, and protecting workers’ rights.
A recent Monmouth University poll conducted September 26-October 1 found Kennedy leading Van Drew by six points, 50% to 44%, among high likely turnout voters. In the poll, 47% of voters said they were bothered by Van Drew switching parties while 51% said they were not bothered.
New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District is the state’s most southern and largest district. It is home to all of Cumberland, Salem, Atlantic, and Cape May counties as well as portions of Camden, Burlington, Ocean, and Gloucester counties.
The district flipped from backing former President Barack Obama by eight percentage points over GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 to voting for President Donald Trump by over four points, 50.6% to 45%, over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to the Daily Kos.
The money race
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Kennedy has both outraised and outspent Van Drew. Kennedy has brought in $4.2 million, spent $4.1 million, and has a little over $102,000 in cash on hand while Van Drew has raised $3.8 million, spent $3.1 million, and has around $742,000 in cash on hand.
Before switching political parties, Van Drew notably did not fundraise in the first quarter of 2019.
“I thought it was a tiny bit distasteful in the very first weeks and months of my election being in there, that the very first thing I was doing was raising money again,” Van Drew said to the New Jersey Globe. “We were in the middle of a closure, a government shutdown. I had real issues with my Coast Guard and with the FAA.”
What experts say
The race between Van Drew and Kennedy is rated as a “toss-up” by The Cook Political Report, “tilts Democratic” by Inside Elections, and “leans Democratic” Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.