- New Jersey is holding primary elections in all of its congressional districts on Tuesday, July 7.
- The biggest races to watch are the Democratic primary to face Rep. Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey's second district, and the Republican primary in the third district to face vulnerable Democratic Rep. Andy Kim.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey is holding Tuesday's primary almost entirely by mail, meaning these elections may not be called for several days.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey is holding Tuesday's primary almost entirely by mail with limited in-person voting options, meaning the results may take longer than usual process and some of these races may not be called for several more days.
New Jersey sent all 3.6 million registered Democratic and Republican voters a mail-in ballot with pre-paid postage, and sent mail ballot applications to 2.4 million unaffiliated voters. New Jersey has closed congressional primaries, meaning that a voter must be registered with a given party to vote in its primary.
In the South Jersey-based 2nd congressional district, which includes Atlantic City and Cape May, several Democrats are vying to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who flipped the seat back to Democratic control in the 2018 midterm elections. It had been represented by Republican Frank LoBiondo for over two decades.
But after less than a year in office, Van Drew switched to the Republican party and pledged his "undying support" to President Donald Trump, who won Van Drew's district by 4.6 percentage points in 2016.
Now, a hotly contested Democratic primary on Tuesday will determine which candidate will run against Van Drew in the fall.
The two frontrunners are Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Callahan Harrison and Amy Kennedy, a former teacher and the education director at the Kennedy Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to mental health founded by her husband, former Rhode Island congressman Patrick J. Kennedy.
As The New York Times reported on Monday, the heated primary between Kennedy and Harrison has broken down along factional lines. After announcing her candidacy, Harrison earned the support of six county-level Democratic Party chairs in the area, Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, and New Jersey Democratic powerbrokers George E. Norcross III and State Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Kennedy, meanwhile, has received the backing of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, and other progressive groups and labor unions.
The Kennedy campaign has seized on Harrison's support from Norcross and New Jersey's establishment to criticize her as being a product of the New Jersey political machine, including in a digital ad that portrayed Norcross seated on a throne as a character from the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones.
"George Norcross is twisting arms and rigging the primary with back room deals for Brigid Harrison, the same way he did for Jeff Van Drew," Kennedy's campaign manager told The New Jersey Globe about the ad. "Phony endorsements, rigged conventions, dirty smear campaigns from third parties are all part of the 'game' Norcross is playing."
In response, Harrison has stressed her credentials as a self-made professional and charged that Kennedy's campaign is mainly banking on her famous last name and powerful family connections to propel her to Congress.
"It is offensive to me that Patrick Kennedy — the embodiment of someone born on third base who believes that he hit a triple…would so cavalierly attempt to use his connections to rig the nomination for his wife," Harrison tweeted on June 30. "Every political endorsement Amy has received has not been because of Amy's candidacy, but rather because of Patrick's connections."
Kennedy, who has lent her own campaign $500,000 this cycle, according to the FEC, far outpaces Harrison in fundraising and spending. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Kennedy has raised $1.38 million and spent $1.1 compared to $365,601 raised and $355,824 spent by Harrison.
Next door, there's a heated Republican primary in the state's third district, which includes parts of Ocean and Burlington Counties in South Jersey.
Construction executive David Richter and Kate Gibbs, a union leader and former Burlington County elected official, are competing to face Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who won back the seat from Republican control by a margin of just 1.3 points in the 2018 midterms.
As Jewish Insider recently reported, the primary between Richter and Gibbs has turned nasty and personal at times. In May, Richter's campaign aired a negative ad attacking Gibbs' criminal record for misdemeanor drug possession and shoplifting charges, comparing her to the bombastic and hard-partying cast of characters on the hit MTV reality show Jersey Shore.
"I made mistakes, I've owned them. But there's nothing more American, or more Republican for that matter, than pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, facing adversity and making better choices," Gibbs told Jewish Insider in response to the negative ad. She also cast Richter, who initially filed to run for Congress in the second district against Van Drew before he switched parties, as a political opportunist.
Richter has so far largely self-funded his campaign, and raised $800,000 including $600,000 in personal loans, and has spent over $591,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Gibbs, meanwhile, has raised a little over $282,000 and spent around $200,000.
In the rest of the state, two incumbent Democrats are also facing long-shot primary challenges. In New Jersey's fifth district, a wealthy suburban seat located in the northern part of the state, Rep. Josh Gottheimeris facing a primary challenge from the left from Dr. Arati Kreibich, a neuroscientist and Glen Rock, NJ councilmember.
Kreibich is running a campaign on progressive policy tenents including establishing a Medicare for All healthcare system, expanding the social safety net, and bolstering the rights of workers, arguing that Gottheimer's record and his voting alongside Trump and Republicans on many issues puts him out of step with his district.
She's earned the endorsements of prominent progressive politicians including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Indivisible, and the Working Families Party. Her campaign, however, faces a tough uphill battle against Gottheimer, a prolific fundraiser who has raised $5.1 million this cycle — almost ten times as much money as Kreibich — and currently has over $8 million in cash on hand.
In New Jersey's Hudson County-based eighth congressional district, which includes East Newark, Hoboken, and parts of Newark and Jersey City, incumbent Rep. Albo Sires is also facing a primary challenge from the left from Hector Oseguera, a lawyer and activist running a progressive campaign on expanding economic opportunity.
Five House incumbents, three Republicans and two Democrats, have so far lost re-nomination from their own party either in a primary or convention this year.
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