TOMS RIVER-Incumbent Congressman Andy Kim is most likely smiling today as Republicans in Congressional District 3 have officially made another mess ahead of what now looks to be a very hotly contested primary.
That’s after David Richter who was running in CD-2 announced he would drop out of that race and switch to CD-3 and challenge current frontrunner, former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs. Richter was displaced by lifelong Democrat Jeff Van Drew after he jumped ship to the red team in January. Now, supporters of Richter and Gibbs are digging in behind their respective candidates.
Gibbs already has the endorsement and backing of the Burlington County GOP, but Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank Holman has indicated that he is leaning towards Richter. This now puts Burlington’s GOP in a tough situation as they have already endorsed Richter for CD-2 and Gibbs for CD-3, putting them at odds with the Trump Administration who traded rally tickets and endorsements in return for endorsements for Van Drew.
Lots of behind the scenes horsetrading has taken place to make room in the party for Van Drew, but Gibbs said she won’t be the horse left in the stable for the big race, despite obvious pressure from GOP leadership, the same leadership who last year called for more young, conservative women to run for office.
“Anyone who thinks they can push me around doesn’t know anything about #SouthJersey women,” Gibbs said. “I was raised by a single mom who taught me how to stand up for myself and never back down from a challenge. To our party leaders who like to talk about empowering and supporting young Republican women to run and serve, well, here I am. The ball is in your court.”
OC GOP Chairman Frank Holman has thus far passed on Gibbs despite his 2019 chairman rally cry to build a more diverse party full of younger candidates and women. Gibbs offers the chairman both, but last week signaled his leaning towards Richter.
Holman endorsed Van Drew after receiving pressure and VIP tickets from the Trump campaign to do so. Burlington County who had endorsed Richter over Van Drew missed the bus on the Trump praise and tickets, according to insiders. Whether Richter’s last-minute switch will bring the Burlington GOP club back into favor remains to be seen. If Holman can horsetrade in Wildwood for a Presidential endorsement of Richter, it could mean Ocean County’s support will go to the transplant.
Republican women in New Jersey don’t want to hear any of that according to the Women for Stronger New Jersey PAC.
“As individuals, outside of our affiliation with WSNJ, we are committed to supporting Kate Gibbs. We will ensure that she has the strong financial support necessary to get her message out in the primary and general election,” read a joint statement from State Sen. Diane Allen, Candy Straight, Kathy Hugin, Laura Overdeck and Stacy Schuster.
Gibbs said she won’t be bossed around by the men who for the most part run the party.
“I’ve worked at the grassroots level for years to elect Republicans in South Jersey, was the youngest elected Freeholder Director in the state, cut taxes every year I was in office, and am proud to be a leader for the state building trades. I’m not stepping aside for anybody.” she said. “Especially not a seat shopper who apparently believes he’s entitled to party support — somewhere, anywhere. My motivation for running isn’t to wear a pin and get a title; I am running to serve the people of Burlington and Ocean Counties and I intend to win.”
“The historic lack of support for women seeking office at all levels has resulted in a lack of diversity among Republican candidates and officeholders in the party,” Senator Allen and her allies said. “Fortunately, we’re beginning to see a reversal of that trend. That’s why we were thrilled to see Kate Gibbs step up to run for Congress this year.”
Two lines on the June ballot in Ocean County can have dire consequences up and down the line, especially for incumbent Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari, who by no fault of his own, could be faced with a primary challenge by default against him.
Tonight, the only candidate in this election smiling is incumbent Democrat Congressman Andy Kim who continues raising money unopposed to face whoever rises from the ashes of what is shaping up to be another brutal primary election tearing at the seams of the once indivisible Ocean County GOP Organization.