ATLANTIC CITY — Northfield resident Bill Hughes Jr. will try to follow in his father’s footsteps and correct what he calls “irresponsible” behavior and a broken system in Washington.
Hughes, 46, announced Thursday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the state’s 2nd Congressional District and challenge longtime Republican incumbent Frank LoBiondo in 2014.
“The days of low accomplishments and low expectations in South Jersey is over. Change begins today,” he said in a speech at Kennedy Plaza, across from Boardwalk Hall. “We have seen the best of what LoBiondo has to offer in 20 years. … It’s time for a change.”
Hughes is the son of former Rep. Bill Hughes, who served in the House of Representatives from 1974 to 1995, when he was replaced by LoBiondo.
Hughes Sr. said his son often went with him on the campaign and developed a love for public policy.
“If that’s your dream, then go for it,” the former congressman said he told his son.
Hughes Jr. talked for much of his announcement about the recent government shutdown, begun when House Republicans did not vote to fund the government to protest the Affordable Care Act. He said he made his announcement now, 12 days before this year’s election, to give current Democratic candidates a boost and because the shutdown is fresh in people’s minds.
“(The system in Washington) is broken. I have three kids. The irresponsible decisions will not just affect me but also my kids,” he said. “LoBiondo sat on his hands and waited on the sidelines and waited for the Republican leadership to tell him he could vote and end the shutdown. LoBiondo is part of the problem, and he knows it.”
Hughes said he would not follow his party if they made a similar decision.
“One thing I won’t do is throw a temper tantrum because I disagree with a law,” he said. “No job is worth shutting down our government and bringing our country to the brink of financial ruin by defaulting on our debt. It’s crazy.”
“Anyone who reads the press of what took place can see, Frank LoBiondo was working to try to end the shutdown,” said Ron Filan, LoBiondo’s campaign manager. Filan said the congressman “has a long history of working across party lines to help the working families of South Jersey,” and that support is evident by the support he’s received in turn from labor organizations in his re-election bid.
Hughes said his top priority would be creating jobs by helping small and medium-sized businesses and expanding Atlantic City International Airport and the William J. Hughes Technical Center, named after his father. He said there must be a stable source of funding for projects in the region.
LoBiondo released a statement that said he welcomes all interested candidates and looks forward to a vigorous discussion of the issues, their qualifications and involvement in the community.
Atlantic County Republican Party Chairman Keith Davis issued a statement saying LoBiondo exhibits solid bipartisan leadership.
“He has served the district extraordinarily well,” he said. “We need him to continue to do so.”
Davis said Hughes’ only previous work in politics was an unsuccessful run for state Senate.
“Now he thinks he can be a congressman?” Davis asked.
Hughes has a wife, Stephanie, and three sons, William III “Johnny,” 6, Charlie, 4, and Patrick, 2. They live in Northfield.
He is a lawyer with Atlantic City’s Cooper Levenson firm. He specializes in corporate investigations, complex commercial litigation and federal white-collar criminal defense.
He previously spent about 7½ years with the U.S. Department of Justice, first in its antitrust division and later as a prosecuting assistant U.S. attorney in Camden. In 2001, in his first bid for public office, he lost a tightly contested election for the 1st District state Senate seat in Cape May County to incumbent James Cafiero.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, has also said he is considering a run for Congress. A Van Drew spokesman said right now the senator is focusing on next month’s election. Hughes said he is not concerned about facing other candidates in a primary.
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