Democrat Van Drew Battles Challengers From the Left in 2nd District Primary

Kim Only Democrat to Oppose MacArthur in 3rd District
By RICK MELLERUP | Apr 25, 2018

Last week The SandPaper previewed June’s GOP primaries in New Jersey’s 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts, the two that encompass all of Southern Ocean County. This week we’ll take a peek at the Democrats.

There are four Republicans seeking to fill the shoes of retiring long-time GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo in the 2nd District. An open seat will attract candidates as quickly as bread handouts on the beach will attract gulls, so it isn’t surprising four Democrats will appear on June’s 2nd District ballot as well.

The 3rd District is another story. Two-term Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur is running for reelection, buoyed by the huge built-in advantages of incumbency. So it isn’t surprising that only one other candidate is challenging him in the GOP primary, and Barnegat’s Martin Weber, a 54-year-old landscaper with no political experience, is such a long shot that a betting shop in England, where betting on elections is legal, wouldn’t offer odds. What is somewhat surprising is that only one Democrat will appear on the 3rd District ballot in June – Andy Kim.

We’ll address the 3rd District first before tackling the more complex situation in the 2nd District and introduce – to many readers – Mr. Kim.

The 35-year-old Marlton resident and father of two “trouble-making baby boys” (his words), is a political neophyte, but he certainly has governmental experience. Kim, a Rhodes Scholar who earned a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, served as an adviser to the U.S. secretary of defense and the Pentagon, as well as a strategic adviser to Generals David Petraeus and John Allen in Afghanistan, and ended up in the White House Situation Room, where he was an adviser to former President Barack Obama.

Kim, though, is no Washington, D.C., carpetbagger in the 3rd District. He was raised with his sisters in Marlton, attending public schools from K-12 and playing Little League baseball.

Indeed, Kim says his family has lived the American dream. His father contracted polio as a baby, was raised in an orphanage and spent much of his childhood homeless on the streets. But his dad went on to become a Ph.D. scientist who dedicated his life to trying to cure cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and married a nurse who helped thousands of people in South Jersey.

“New Jersey gave my family the opportunity to achieve the American dream, but now I worry those same opportunities won’t be there for my two baby boys who I’m raising here just a few miles from where I grew up,” said Kim. “I worry that the community that gave me everything isn’t getting the support it deserves. I’m fighting for my family, for my neighbors, for the community that raised me, and for the state that gave me the American dream.”

Kim has borrowed a theme from the GOP, the “Contract With America” idea that in the 1994 elections helped Newt Gingrich and the Republicans capture the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. He’s calling it “my contract with the people of New Jersey.”

Kim’s contract stresses transparency and accountability. He’s promising to:

• commit to holding at least one in-person town hall every month.

• commit to not accept a dime from corporate Political Action Committees because I believe in a government that focuses on people, not corporations.

• commit to providing daily reports on what I am working on, who I am meeting with, and how I plan to vote.

• commit to holding public comment before every scheduled vote I take.

• commit to always putting people before partisan politics.

His biography shows Kim would support public education. The reason he gave for entering the race – MacArthur’s crafting of amendments that helped push the Republican American Health Care Act through the House – shows he would be a defender of Obamacare.

“In New Jersey, we have an estimated 3.8 million non-elderly people who have pre-existing conditions, over 300,000 just in the Jersey 3rd District,” he told CBS News in June 2017. “MacArthur didn’t just vote for TrumpCare, he wrote it. He needs to be held accountable.”

Kim at one time faced three Democratic opponents. But one died before the petition-filing deadline, and the other two dropped out, perhaps because Kim had a significant lead in fundraising (according to The New York Times he had raised more than $1.1 million by April 5), and had obtained important endorsements, including one in March from former Vice President Joe Biden.

Kim’s campaign got a boost on April 5 when Cook Political Report shifted the 3rd District from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” But although he easily outdistanced his Democratic foes, he still has a tough job ahead trying to defeat MacArthur, considering the incumbent beat out his Democratic opponent by a 59.3 percent to 38.9 percent margin in 2016.

New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District includes most of Burlington County and much of Ocean County, including the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township.

Solid Favorite

Down South

On to the 2nd District, which consists of all or parts of eight South Jersey counties including all of Southern Ocean County except those two exceptions noted above.

Last week, SandPaper readers learned that Linwood engineer Hirsh Singh is the frontrunner in the 2nd District GOP primary race. The reason: he had the support of four of the district’s eight counties including Atlantic, which is home of 40 percent of the district’s electorate.

If we continue to follow the county organizations’ support theory, then state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, 65, a dentist from Cape May County, is definitely the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. He’s earned the support of all eight Democratic county chairs and has proven to be a solid fundraiser, collecting $408,454 during the first three months of 2018, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Van Drew has a long political career. His first elective office was as a member of the Dennis Township Committee in 1991. He went on to serve as that town’s mayor from 1994 to 1995 and from 1997 to 2003. He was a Cape May County freeholder from 1994 to 1997. Van Drew was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 2002 through 2008 and has been a member of the New Jersey Senate since 2008.

The senator is widely considered one of the most conservative Democrats in Trenton – he has a top rating from the National Rifle Association, although he said he stopped taking donations from the group years ago. A further testimony to his middle-of-the-road political stance is the fact he was endorsed in his run for Congress by the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 18 “fiscally responsible” Democrats. The Blue Dogs came together in 1994 after the GOP had won control of both the U.S. House and Senate. They were worried that the Democratic Party had drifted too far to the left for the American people.

Another sign that he is the Democratic frontrunner is that Singh attacked him last Friday. Van Drew had gotten the endorsement by Moms Demand Action, a group that demands “gun sense in America.” Singh lashed out, saying the conservative Democrat was suffering from a “liberal devolution.”

“Today,” said a Singh statement, “Jeff Van Drew continued his inevitable march to the left by announcing the endorsement of Moms Demand Action – a radical, anti-Second Amendment organization dedicated to taking away our Constitutional right to protect ourselves, our families, and our property. … Van Drew has been masquerading as a wannabe Republican in Trenton for years, but now that he’s running for Congress, he’s betraying those who have supported him in the past to appease the far left-wing of the Democrat Party.”

Watch Out

For Left Jabs

Van Drew, unlike Kim, still has to defeat some Democratic opponents.

One is Vineland’s Will Cunningham, 32, who, like Kim, has a work-overcomes-hard-luck family story. His family, headed by a single mother, was evicted, leaving his family homeless while he attended Vineland High School. But he went on to graduate from Brown University before earning his law degree from the University of Texas. He taught for an educational reform organization called Teach for America before becoming a staff member for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

“Although we did not have much growing up, my mother was the kind of person that would give you her last,” said Cunningham. “She taught me a lesson I have always carried with me: you help the most vulnerable when they do not have the means to help themselves.”

Cunningham vows to fight for a better education system, “regardless of their background or their ZIP Code”; a robust jobs plan pushing clean-energy jobs; mandatory paid leave time for all workers; access to vocational job training; and a raised minimum wage. He also pledges he would protect Medicare and Social Security and stand up to the NRA.

Tanzie Youngblood, 62, from Woolwich, is a first-time political candidate. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Rosemont College and a master’s degree in elementary education from St. Joseph’s University and a master’s in educational leadership from Cabrini University, she worked as an educator in public schools for more than 30 years before retiring in 2015.

Needless to say, she believes good schools are the bedrock of great communities. She believes politicians in both Trenton and Washington haven’t listened to parents and teachers, and so she decided to enter the world of politics.

She is a widow, a proud mother of one son who is an active duty member of the U.S. Navy and another who is a high school chemistry teacher. Her connections with her sons point to her policy highlights. Education has already been discussed; her second main point is supporting the military.

“Our district is home to almost 43,000 veterans, and to active duty service members in the Air National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard,” she said. “These men and women deserve our honor and respect for their sacrifice and that of their families. But too many of our veterans are unemployed, many are disabled, many suffer mental illness from their service, and many are homeless. This is simply unacceptable. We all must give back to those who protect us. My son honors me with his service in the U.S. Navy. As a Blue Star mother, I will work hard for the rights of all Americans who serve.”

Youngblood’s candidacy got a big boost in January when Time ran a story called “The Avengers,” talking about “an unprecedented surge of first-time female candidates.” A picture of her, along with dozens of other women, was featured on the magazine cover.

Nathan Kleinman is the Democrat running on the far left this spring.

Kleinman, 35, a Georgetown graduate, is an unabashed political activist, and a participant in the Occupy movement. He’s fighting for universal, single-payer health care, universal preschool, free college education, expanded student loan forgiveness, and for protecting teachers unions. He’s also an environmentalist, wanting to cut subsidies for fossil fuel industries; fight offshore drilling; advancing renewable energy through tax incentives, subsidies and research; and urging higher taxes on oil, gas and coal companies. Kleinman wants the Equal Rights Amendment passed, and wants equal pay for equal work for women.

How far to the left is Kleinman? He supports universal basic income.

So, Van Drew is running against three candidates who are running from the left. That means he not only has the support of the establishment – which means regular, dependable voters – but has the advantage of seeing his opponents split their vote.

No wonder Singh on the Republican side is already singling him out.

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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