• February 20, 2020

Van Drew is steadily lining up his support - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Van Drew is steadily lining up his support

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:43 am

After U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew announced in December that he would switch parties from Democrat to Republican, response in Republican circles has been varied, ranging from skepticism to emphatically embracing his decision.

Although it’s been only a month since Van Drew appeared in the White House and pledged his “undying support” for President Donald Trump, Republican leadership in the 2nd Congressional District has announced their endorsements for Van Drew’s re-election in November. 

The 2nd Congressional District encompasses Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties, most of Atlantic County and parts of Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Ocean counties. 

Van Drew will appear with Trump at a “Keep American Great” rally Jan. 28 in Wildwood. 

Cape May County’s Republican leadership expressed their support for Van Drew, noting the close relationship Van Drew has with the president. 

“We now have an incumbent Republican congressman, endorsed by our Republican president,” Cape May County Republican Chairman Marcus Karavan said. “I plan to follow our president’s lead and work hard to re-elect Rep. Van Drew to the U.S. Congress.”

All five members of the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders and municipal officials have lined up with their support for Van Drew, noting his long history of service.

A dentist by trade, Van Drew began his political career as Dennis Township’s mayor, then served on the county freeholder board, then the state Assembly and Senate. 

He was elected to Congress in 2018, the first Democrat congressman to serve in the 2nd District in a generation. 

Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said he has known Van Drew for many years.

Although Van Drew was a Democrat and Thornton a Republican, the two have a good working relationship, Thornton said. 

“No matter his position or party, Jeff has looked to do good and put politics aside,” Thornton said. “We have joked with him for years about crossing over and joining the party of common sense. Any past differences pale in comparison to the good work we can now accomplish as partners fighting for a better Cape May County.”

These differences began showing more and more when Van Drew got to Washington. 

Before taking his oath of office, Van Drew told the Sentinel that he didn’t intend to support U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) as Speaker of the House, preferring new leadership.

When it came for his time to vote for speaker, Van Drew said “No,” which was later recorded as “present.”

He opposed impeaching Trump for alleged misconduct in office, one of two Democrats to do so. 

According to the House Intelligence Committee’s report, the impeachment inquiry found that Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his re-election” when he allegedly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential contender and former vice president Joe Biden. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas producer. The report alleges that Trump withheld a White House meeting Zelensky wanted and U.S. military assistance for Ukraine in exchange for Zelensky’s help with investigating Hunter Biden.

During his Oval Office news conference with Trump, Van Drew said the Democratic Party he grew up with had radically changed. He noted a local Democratic leader pressured him into voting for impeachment articles against Trump. If Van Drew didn’t comply, the Democrats in his home district would run somebody else, he said.

“Let’s be honest, my conservative positions often put me at odds with the Democrat leadership,” Van Drew said in a statement. “After nearly a year in Washington, it became clear to me that the radical agenda of the far-left elements that now control the Democrat Party is inflicting real damage on our country. Like the hard-working, common-sense people of South Jersey, my views and vision for a better America are in line with President Trump’s plans to make America great again.”

Republicans lining up to challenge Van Drew in the June primary include Brian Fitzherbert, a defense contractor from Egg Harbor Township; David Richter of Avalon, a former CEO of Hill International; and Bob Patterson of Ocean City, a senior adviser to Trump and acting commissioner at the Social Security Administration.

First Legislative District Assemblyman Erik Simonsen noted if the Cape May County Republican Party nominates Van Drew as its congressional candidate, he would support him “100 percent.”

“As the mayor of Lower and as a councilmember, any time I had an issue in my town Jeff always came down and backed me up and it really didn’t matter what party he was from or what party I was from,” Simonsen said. “There are some major things he helped me get accomplished in Lower Township when he was our senator. At the end of the day, that’s all I really care about.”

Somers Point Councilman and Atlantic County Republican Freeholder At-Large candidate James Toto rescinded his endorsement of Richter on Jan. 20 and announced his support for Van Drew. 

“Having known Congressman Van Drew for several years, I always appreciated his conservative values and dedication to our community,” Toto said. “Jeff and I have spoken several times recently about issues that are important to me as an elected official, including honoring our veterans. I’m happy to welcome Congressman Van Drew to the Republican Party and join with President Trump in supporting him.” 

Galloway Township Republicans in Atlantic County announced their support for Van Drew. Municipal Chairwoman Terry Lucarelli, Freeholder Rich Dase, former mayor and councilman Tony Coppola, former Deputy Mayor and Councilman Rich Clute, Councilman Tony DiPietro, former mayor Don Purdy and Galloway Township Republican League President Chris Coleman released the following statement endorsing Van Drew’s re-election:

“Congressman Van Drew is a proven conservative who has a long and distinguished record of fighting for South Jersey families. We are grateful that Congressman Van Drew is fighting to defend President Trump at every turn and we are honored to endorse him for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. With President Trump and Congressman Van Drew leading our Republican ticket, we are poised for victory in 2020.”

Salem County Republican Chairwoman Linda DuBois announced her endorsement Jan. 17 for Van Drew’s re-election.

DuBois served on Pittsgrove Township Committee for 27 years, including five years as mayor. 

“Congressman Van Drew has a deep understanding of the issues facing South Jersey, particularly when it comes to the needs of our agricultural community,” DuBois said. “Congressman Van Drew has stood up for South Jersey and with President Trump, so it has been no surprise to see the overwhelming support the congressman has received. I am proud to join the thousands of rank-and-file Republicans who have come up to him in coffee shops, diners and out on the streets of South Jersey in offering my full support to Congressman Van Drew.”

On Jan. 16, Van Drew’s Washington office announced his new committee assignments for the 116th Congress.

He was appointed to the Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security and all the agencies under the DHS umbrella, including the U.S. Coast Guard, which has a training facility in Cape May.

Van Drew was also appointed to the Education and Labor Committee, which oversees all federal education initiatives from pre-school to continuing education, and all labor issues from pensions to job training.

“I am proud and excited to serve my country, my state and my community on these committees. I will always be the voice of the people and a voice for reason in Washington, D.C,” Van Drew said. “This is a giant win for our district, and I look forward to working on the issues my constituents sent me here to solve. I plan to work with all my colleagues on education and labor issues and to ensure the security of our nation by providing agencies from FEMA’s disaster recovery efforts to the Coast Guard protecting our nation with the tools they need to be successful. I look forward to this exciting new chapter.”

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