Four Republicans Left in Race for LoBiondo’s House Seat

MacArthur Faces Just One Opponent in 3rd District
By RICK MELLERUP | Apr 18, 2018

The list of opponents for the June 5 New Jersey 2nd Congressional District Republican primary has firmed up. Four candidates remain in the mix from the seven who originally announced they were seeking the nomination.

If either figure seems an abnormally high number, that’s owing to the fact they’re seeking to replace retiring Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo. Open seats attract candidates because the advantage incumbents usually enjoy is scratched.

The 2nd District Democratic primary also boasts four candidates after a fifth withdrew. In 2016, there were only two.

The 2nd was considered a safe Republican district in 2016 when LoBiondo ran for reelection for the seat he had occupied since 1995. After all, he had won every previous re-election bid with at least 57.7 percent of the vote. He cruised to victory in 2016 by a 59.2 percent to 37.2 percent margin over Democrat David Cole.

LoBiondo’s retirement has changed the picture. The Cook Political Report now rates the district as “Lean Democratic.” Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales says the district is a toss-up. And Virginia University political scientist Larry J. Sabato also has the district leaning toward the Democrats.

Hirsh Singh

Must Be Singing

The Republican frontrunner seems to be Hirsh Vardhan Singh, 32, from Linwood, Atlantic County. Born in Atlantic City, he’s a graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in engineering. Singh joined a firm called Hi-Tec Systems in 2004 and worked his way up the company ladder, becoming senior director of operations in 2013. That explains his campaign slogan – “Let’s Send an Engineer to Fix Washington.”

Singh ran in the GOP primary for governor in 2017 and finished third in the five-person race, collecting 23,728 votes (the winner, then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, earned 113,846). But he proved he is capable of soliciting campaign donations, raising $1,021,387 for his run.

Singh, an Indian-American, has staked out the ground on the right wing of the primary, declaring himself a conservative and a supporter of President Donald Trump.

“South Jersey deserves a conservative champion in Congress – someone who will defend the president’s agenda, fight to bring our fair share of tax dollars back to South Jersey, and stand up to Nancy Pelosi and the radical left,” he said in a prepared statement announcing his candidacy. “The president’s agenda of slashing regulations, cutting taxes and returning decision-making to state and local governments is working to grow the economy and must be supported.”

Singh has garnered the support of the Republican organizations of Ocean, Burlington, Camden and Atlantic counties, with the last being huge considering it comprises 40 percent of the district’s electorate.

Singh’s campaign is very different from that of Robert Turkavage, 63, from Brigantine. Turkavage, a retired FBI agent, was interviewed by The SandPaper in February, and he attempted to stake out the center of the GOP. Instead of attaching himself to Trump, he played to LoBiondo voters and also said he had campaigned for Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the 2016 Republican GOP primaries.

“I believe that going forward, the residents of southern New Jersey are entitled to the same level of representation to which they have become accustomed under LoBiondo. I share many of LoBiondo’s views on the economy and the environment. On national security, as a retired supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I am acutely aware of the threats posed by our adversaries, both from the counterintelligence and terrorism perspectives. I also share Lo Biondo’s independence. Like LoBiondo, I would have voted an emphatic ‘No’ to the recently passed tax bill had I been a sitting member of the House. Like LoBiondo, I am adamantly opposed to any offshore drilling off the New Jersey coast.”

This isn’t Turkavage’s first political dance. He ran as an independent against Democrat Bob Menendez for U.S. Senate in 2012, garnering 3,532 votes.

Turkavage has earned the support of the Cumberland County Republican Committee.

Samuel L. Fiocchi, 65, hails from Vineland. He retired in 2009 after running a family irrigation business for 37 years and almost immediately dove into politics.

Fiocchi was a Cumberland County freeholder from 2011 to 2013 and was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly 1st District seat in November 2013 but was defeated two years later when he ran for reelection. He also served on ex-Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team in 2010.

Fiocchi also has tried to hook himself on the star of President Trump. In a March 6 press release announcing his candidacy, the former assemblyman said, “This district needs a Republican who is unafraid to stand with President Trump because, like it or not, the president’s policies are working. We can’t afford to send a Democrat to Washington who will simply stand with Nancy Pelosi and say no to everything.”

Fiocchi may have waited too long to jump on the Trump bandwagon. It is true that Singh didn’t announce until the end of February. But the website SaveJersey.com reported as far back as Feb. 16 that Singh was running, saying it had confirmed that “directly with the candidate.” So Singh got the jump on Fiocchi, perhaps the reason the latter didn’t get the endorsement of his own county committee. He did, though, draw the support of the Cape May County Committee.

The final Republican candidate still standing is Seth Grossman, an attorney who lives in Atlantic City. He graduated from Atlantic City High School in 1967, from Duke University in 1971 and from Temple Law School in 1975.

He served as an independent on the Atlantic City Council for four years after being elected in 1986, and in 1988 became an Atlantic County freeholder after winning the Republican primary by a single vote. He served three years in that position.

Grossman was the only Republican challenger to Gov. Christie in 2013, winning 18,095 votes to Christie’s 205,666 in that year’s Republican primary.

He’s the third “Trumpist” in the 2nd District GOP primary. His website’s main campaign points are titled “Enforce Immigration Laws,” “Support President Trump,” “Repeal Remnants of Obamacare” and “Allow Americans to Defend Themselves.”

Grossman has not won the support of any of his district’s county GOP organizations. How can that be considering there are eight and we’ve only discussed six so far? The remaining two counties went to candidates who are no longer in the race. Those counties will have to go back to the drawing board.

Somers Point Councilman James Toto, who won the endorsement of the Salem County Republican Committee, has dropped out of the race. Another Somers Point resident, engineer Brian Fitzherbert, had won the support of the Gloucester County GOP, but he was removed from the ballot when he didn’t collect the required number of petition signatures.

Only One Opponent

For MacArthur

Two-term incumbent Tom MacArthur will face only one opponent in the June 5 New Jersey 3rd District Republican primary. The 3rd District serves parts of Burlington and Ocean counties, including the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township.

It makes sense that MacArthur would scare most politicos away. He’s made quite the name for himself in Washington, coming up with an idea that got the House to pass an Obamacare Repeal and Replace bill that eventually failed in the Senate. His compromise to allow residents of high-tax states such as New Jersey to write off up to $10,000 of state and local taxes from their federal taxes helped push the GOP tax reform/cut plan through both the House and Senate. He’s also well funded and a multi-millionaire who, if necessary, could throw a lot of his own money into the race.

But all of that didn’t stop Martin Weber, 54, of Barnegat.

Unlike all of the other candidates mentioned, Weber is a political neophyte. He doesn’t have an impressive list of degrees or fancy job titles – in fact, he owns a landscaping company.

So why is he running his seemingly quixotic campaign? Because Jeff Poissant, an army veteran and his former business partner, passed away last November at the age of 56.

“The veterans are not getting the care they deserve,” Weber told The SandPaper in March. “The congressman is supposed to be the first person you contact when you need assistance from the VA (Veterans Administration), but we hardly got any help at all. On the day Jeff died, the VA called to confirm an appointment for him for Dec. 22. I think if Jeff had gotten better care through the VA, he might still be with us today.”

So Weber is making reforming the VA and cutting red tape the main point of his campaign. In fact, he’s shooting for a plan that would allow vets to get care at any doctor or hospital of their choice.

Weber is also pushing for congressional term limits, saying that if a president is limited to two terms, so should members of the House and Senate.

“You have people serving for more than 30 years, and some for more than 40 years,” said Weber. “That’s way too long. After a while, there’s not much incentive to do your job.”

Next week we’ll take a look at the Democratic candidates in Southern Ocean County’s congressional primaries.

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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