South Jersey congressional candidate Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat, said he will not toe the Democratic Party line if elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Van Drew, currently a state Senator in the 1st Legislative District, pointed to his moderate voting record in the state Legislature as evidence that he will put the priorities of the 2nd congressional district residents before party concerns.
The senator’s statement, which came Wednesday during an editorial board meeting with The Press of Atlantic City, was in response to his Republican opponent Seth Grossman, who is running against him in the race to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
Last week, Grossman warned Republicans considering voting for Van Drew that the senator was hiding from his Democratic roots, but that his liberal leanings would emerge if he was elected.
But Van Drew, who previously said he would not support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House if Democrats take control, said he knows this district is moderate and believes real change comes from the middle of the political spectrum through bipartisan legislation.
“The majority of races in play (around the country that can) make change possible are actually those in the middle,” Van Drew said. “You hear a lot about the progressives, and there’s a lot of noise and excitement with that, but if you look at all these districts where you can really make the change … those folks tend to be more moderate, and there is more of those folks than we realize.”
He added that far-left progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old woman who knocked off long-time representative and high-ranking Democrat Joe Crowley in the New York City primary earlier this year, would not win in the district here in South Jersey.
That premise was true in June when Van Drew dominated several progressive challengers in the Democratic Primary who attacked him for being a moderate.
“This is a more moderate, middle-of-the-road, working class type of district, which is quite frankly what I like and what I relate to,” Van Drew said.
Michael Klein, the interim director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, said Friday that Van Drew’s moderate record speaks for itself. He added that, in some ways, it matches the moderate record of LoBiondo, the South Jersey Republican who voted against GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut taxes last year.
He also added that President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in New Jersey could work against Grossman. A recent poll conducted by Stockton found that two of the top three issues for New Jersey voters going into the midterm election are Trump’s job performance and which party will control Congress.
“I think (Van Drew) will stake out a moderate Democratic stance that will probably go against the progressives in a number of different ways,” Klein said. “I also think Trump’s unpopularity in New Jersey will weigh heavily on voters.”
The Stockton poll also found that Van Drew is leading Grossman by 23 points.
Election Day is Nov. 6.