Republican voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly chose Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt, a political newcomer, to run for the 1st District state Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jeff Van Drew.
Adelizzi-Schmidt had a sizeable lead over Downe Township Mayor Robert Campbell, 6,382 to 1,212, on Tuesday night with just a few voting districts left to report. Adelizzi-Schmidt beat Campbell for the party endorsement back in March but Campbell decided to challenge her in the primary.
“We are making history here. I am the first female Senate candidate. It’s an historic night for this Legislative district. We are going to break through glass ceilings. I did it tonight and we’ll do it in November,” said Adelizzi-Schmidt at a victory celebration at the Bellevue Tavern in Cape May Court House.
Adelizzi-Schmidt, an Upper Township resident who owns her own public relations firm, did not waste any time in beginning the campaign against Van Drew, saying he is “very good at photo-ops and getting his picture in the paper” but she said during his 11 years in office he has failed the district, which includes all of Cape May County, most of Cumberland County and three towns in Atlantic County. She said unemployment has doubled in the district since Van Drew took office, about 35,000 people without jobs.
“He has not created jobs in the district. We see lines of cars on the parkway on Friday nights (coming here). We live in the best place in the world, so why are our kids leaving?” Adelizzi-Schmidt asked.
The Republicans revealed a strategy to defeat Van Drew by playing up his votes to increase taxes and painting him as a liberal Democrat who acts conservative at election time.
“Senator Van Drew has a long record in Trenton including over 100 votes for tax increases,” said GOP Chairman Mike Donohue. “He can try to defend it, and I think he will, but these are tough times and his party was in power as New Jersey was basically driven into bankruptcy.”
Van Drew, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, responded by listing a number of taxes he voted against and noting back in April he supported Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to cut taxes.
“Our governor applauded me. He said Jeff Van Drew is doing the right thing for New Jersey,” said Van Drew.
He challenged placing the blame on him for high unemployment.
“It’s stupid to blame the unemployment rate on one New Jersey senator. That would be like me blaming the Cape May County freeholders. Cape May County has been Republican for over a century,” Van Drew said.
Van Drew received 3,806 votes. His running mates seeking state Assembly seats also ran unopposed. Incumbent Assemblyman Nelson Albano garnered 3,661 votes while newcomer Robert Andrzejczak, an Iraq war veteran, tallied 3,204 votes.
Republican voters also approved two Assembly candidates who were running unopposed. Sam Fiocchi, a Cumberland County freeholder who has run before unsuccessfully, received 7,292 votes while Kristine Gabor, a Cape May County freeholder, received 6,998 votes.
“It’s always jobs and the unemployment issue,” Fiocchi said at the Bellevue Tavern.
Gabor said she respected Andrzejczak’s service to his country but there are clear differences between the two parties.
“The focus is to make life affordable here, and in order to do this we need to attract jobs and small businesses. We need to cut red tape and adopt the governor’s tool kit. The only way we can get it done is to have Republican control of the Legislature,” Gabor said.
Both sides said they hope to have several debates.
“I compliment her (Adelizzi-Schmidt) on winning the primary and being able to represent her party and I look forward to having a meaningful dialogue. I think we will debate and I look forward to that,” Van Drew said.
Contact Richard Degener: