Candidates Examine Van Drew’s Switch to Republican Party

December 17, 2019 Updated: December 17, 2019

After freshman Congressman Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) indicated he will vote against impeachment and switch parties, he will need to convince his district that he is really behind the Republican values that his New Jersey 2nd congressional district has voted to uphold since the mid-90s.

This week it was reported that six of Van Drew’s staffers wrote a letter before quitting because Van Drew was going to switch parties from Democrat to Republican. Part of the letter read, “Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by (President) Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office.”

One of the Republican candidates running in the 2020 House race in Van Drew’s district, Brian Fitzherbert, a former Defense contractor, told The Epoch Times his goal is to bring economic prosperity back to his district. “Coastal areas in the district have seasonal job[s] and tourism but I want to help bring back year around jobs for those communities.”

As far as Jeff Van Drew, Fitzherbert says you just have look at his voting record and see that he is liberal. “His stance on impeachment is one issue, but the voters will look at his whole record. I voted for President Trump.”

Bob Patterson, another Republican running against Van Drew in 2020 who grew up in the district that he now seeks to serve, echoed Fitzherbert’s sentiments. Patterson told The Epoch Times: “Van Drew is only changing parties to protect his seat, and it shows he is only fighting for himself. Generally, in history, party switchers have not done well with reelection, but if he’s serious he should resign and then run again.”

Patterson said of his goals for the district, “South Jersey has been ignored for a long time and I want to help shift the economy and bring back manufacturing jobs because my district is one of those that has been left behind.” Patterson said he supports the president whole-heartedly and wants to work to implement the Trump administration’s economic agenda.

Both Patterson and Fitzherbert said that 2018 was a tough year for Republicans because they lost dozens of House seats and there were many unforeseen variables that led to the outcome of Van Drew being elected.

New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district has historically been represented by Republicans. Former President Barack Obama won the district in 2008 and 2012, and President Donald Trump won it in 2016. The district is in the southernmost part of New Jersey and is the state’s largest, including rural farms from Salem County to Atlantic City and Jersey Shore. In 2018, The Cook Political Report changed the district’s rating from “Safe Republican” to “Toss-Up.”

On Nov. 29, 2017, Van Drew announced he would run for the open congressional seat, aiming “to bring economic opportunity and good jobs to South Jersey.” He had the support of New Jersey’s Democratic leaders. In February 2018, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included Van Drew in their Red to Blue program, which provided resources and donors to candidates in districts that were targeted to be flipped from Republican to Democrat.

Following Van Drew’s win in the primary, he ultimately won 52.9 percent of the vote, one of four New Jersey congressional districts to flip from Republican to Democratic. This made Van Drew the first Democrat to represent the district since 1995.

Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told ABC’s “This Week” that his party isn’t concerned about Van Drew’s decision.

“What he’s reacting to is public polling that shows he can’t get renominated,” the House Judiciary Committee chairman said. “His electorate in his district is 24 percent to renominate him and 60 percent to nominate somebody else.”

Nadler is most likely referring to a poll that asked Democrats if they would vote for a representative who does not support impeachment. Almost 70 percent said they would not vote for a candidate who doesn’t vote to impeach President Trump. The poll then found 71 percent of Democrats said they were less likely to support Van Drew for reelection since he voted against impeachment.

A first-time lawmaker from a Republican-leaning southern New Jersey district, Van Drew had made it clear he would not support impeachment. In late October, he said: “Today, I voted Nay on H.Res. 660. Without bipartisan support, I believe this inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate. “

The former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee joked in a Twitter post on Monday: “NJ Dem Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who voted against the impeachment inquiry, reportedly plans to vote against impeachment & switch parties to the GOP, which prompted 5 of his staffers to quit. He’s not even a Republican yet, and he’s already saving the taxpayers money!”