Republican primary candidate David Richter is exiting the race against U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, and will run in New Jersey’s 3rd District instead, he said Monday.

He is endorsing Van Drew and will have the help of consultant Bill Stepien, an adviser to both Van Drew and President Donald Trump in their re-election bids, Richter said.

The announcement came a day before Trump’s campaign rally in Wildwood, in which Trump has said he will encourage GOP voters to back Van Drew.

The important thing was flipping the 2nd District to Republican, Richter said, “and Van Drew has already done that.”

Richter has not always been so supportive of Van Drew. Right after Van Drew announced the party switch Dec. 19, Richter was harsh in his criticism and suggested Van Drew would not be a real Republican.

“I’m sure he’s doing what’s best for him. I do wish him well,” Van Drew said of Richter. “It helps us in our district to have pretty much an open and clear way.”

Brian Fitzherbert, of Egg Harbor Township, dropped out of the race last week.

It leaves only Bob Patterson, of Haddonfield and Ocean City, in the primary against Van Drew. Van Drew has been endorsed by Trump, by the county chairmen of the GOP in all eight counties in the district, and by many local and county officials and party leaders.

Richter decided to run in the primary long before Van Drew’s December party switch, he said, because he wanted to serve his country and the Republican Party by flipping a district.

“I can do that as well with a 3 next to my name as a 2,” Richter said.

The Cook Political Report has the 2nd District leaning Republican, with the 3rd District a tossup with slight lean to Democratic.

Richter now will run in the Republican primary against former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs, who has been endorsed by the Burlington County Republican Committee. The winner will go up against freshman U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3rd.

“I see in the 3rd an opportunity, because Andy Kim ... is far too liberal for that district,” Richter said of the 3rd, which covers parts of Ocean and Burlington counties.

The 3rd district voted for Trump by six points, Richter said.

“Andy Kim is beatable, but we have got to have the best possible candidate,” Richter said. “If Kate Gibbs was suitable, there wouldn’t be an opening for me.”

Patterson immediately issued a press release reaffirming his commitment to the race.

“The race in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District will now come down to two candidates: Conservative Republican Bob Patterson vs. liberal former Democrat Jeff Van Drew,” Patterson said.

Patterson’s campaign is also promoting a new website highlighting the difference between the two at, which emphasizes Van Drew’s pro-choice stance and votes he’s taken that were not in line with Trump during Van Drew’s first year in office.

“Voters will have a clear choice on June 2: A lifelong conservative vs. a lifelong liberal,” Patterson said. “I’m proud of my pro-life, pro-border, pro-Trump record. South Jersey Republicans simply can’t trust Jeff Van Drew to fight for our conservative values and stand with President Trump.”

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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