NJ Election 2020: District 2

New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District is drawing national attention due to the high-profile decision last year by Rep. Jeff Van Drew to switch to the Republican Party after flipping the long-red district to blue in 2018.

The district is the state’s largest geographically, encompassing all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties, and parts of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Ocean counties.

Before Van Drew, moderate Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo (1995-2019) represented the district, where more registered voters have been Democrat than Republican. The current split among registered voters is 33% Democrat, 29% Republican and 36% unaffiliated.

The 2nd Congressional District also has the oldest population of the state’s dozen districts — the median age is 43.3 years old — and the second-lowest median household income, $63,145.

Van Drew, who has been well-liked in South Jersey for many year, easily won his primary over challenger Robert Patterson But progressive Democrats who helped elect him in 2019 are furious at his decision to change parties and have vowed to oust him in November.

Amy Kennedy, a South Jersey native who married into the Kennedy family, easily won a crowded Democratic primary that had been expected to be a close race even though South Jersey power boss George Norcross backed a different candidate.

Two of the major political ratings websites called the race a toss up in early September, with the third giving the edge to Van Drew.

Two independent candidates are also on the November ballot.

CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES

JEFF VAN DREW: REPUBLICAN (incumbent)

Van Drew made headlines last year when he was one of only two House Democrats to vote against both counts of impeachment against President Donald Trump and then became the only member to switch parties. He had been the most conservative Democrat in the state Senate for a dozen years. Trump rewarded Van Drew with a raucous rally in Wildwood about five weeks before COVID-19 hit New Jersey. He also spoke on the fourth night of the Republican National Convention in August 2020. The freshman is using photos with Trump to help sell himself to GOP voters in the district.

Still, Van Drew has voted for Trump policies fewer times than any other House Republican, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. According to his campaign website, Van Drew supports Trump on such issues as the border wall, but he holds some more liberal positions, including equal pay for women and a restoration of protections under the Voting Rights Act. Van Drew recently retired from a 35-year dental practice. He is married with two children and lives in Dennis Township.

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AMY KENNEDY: DEMOCRAT

The wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, Amy Kennedy is a former teacher; the mother of five currently serves as the education director of the Kennedy Forum, where she focuses on education and mental health policy. She has won the support of President Barack Obama and the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, which backed Van Drew two years ago.

Kennedy cites economic justice, the environment, mental health and addiction as key issues in her platform. She vows to preserve and expand the Affordable Care Act, as well as allow anyone who wants to buy into Medicare to do so. Kennedy also supports legislation to protect and strengthen workers’ rights to unionize and backs a $15 minimum wage.

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JESSE EHRNSTROM: LIBERTARIAN

Ehrnstrom is a South Jersey native who lives in Tuckerton. He is a supervisor at a grocery store in Lacey. According to his campaign website, Ehrnstrom plays rugby, practices Buddhism and said he wants to see unity in his community and the nation.

The 27-year old supports the legalization of marijuana and protecting 2nd Amendment rights. Generally, he said he wants to reduce the role of the federal government to the minimum possible and give municipal governments greater rights of self-determination.

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JENNA HARVEY: INDEPENDENT

A mother of three, Harvey works as director of coalitions and community partnerships for The Southwest Council, a non-profit that provides substance abuse prevention, education and treatment in South Jersey. In a blog post on her campaign website, she wrote about raising two daughter on part-time employment and government assistance before marrying and going to college. She holds a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Rutgers University Camden. She lists her address as Rosenhayn.

Harvey supports more progressive tax policies, including a federal sales tax on big ticket items to help reduce income inequality, a cap on college tuition increases at institutions that receive federal aid and universal preventive and emergency health care for all. She is running under the slogan “Justice Mercy Humility.”

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MORE ON THIS RACE

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