Another political party change is affecting the 2nd Congressional District race.

Former FBI agent Robert Turkavage, 64, of Brigantine, who lost to Seth Grossman in the 2018 Republican primary for the 2nd District, will run this year as a Democrat, he said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press, the intelligence community and his mishandling of national security convinced him to make the switch about two weeks ago, Turkavage said.

He will face at least three Democrats for the right to challenge incumbent Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd.

Van Drew, one of two Democrats to vote against both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, announced his party switch in a Dec. 19 news conference with Trump in the Oval Office.

Like Van Drew, Turkavage left a party he had been with for most of his life. But Turkavage said he agrees with the Democratic platform on the need to tax the wealthy more and middle class less, and in his opposition to the death penalty.

“It’s going to be challenging,” Turkavage said Tuesday of breaking through in a crowded Democratic field. “I will be knocking on doors every day from January till primary day” on June 2.

Turkavage provided a long list of reasons for his party change, starting with saying the GOP “bears primary responsibility for the $3.1 trillion increase in our national debt since 2017, accomplished largely through tax cuts to even the wealthiest of Americans.”

Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman wished Turkavage luck, “as all the other candidates.”

“I don’t really know Bob that well, but he seems like a genuine guy,” Suleiman said. “He seems sincere in the reason he’s switching — because of Trump’s disastrous effects on foreign policy and how he’s treated the intelligence community.”

By contrast, Suleiman called Van Drew’s switch “purely political.”

“Bob’s seems more of a philosophical change. We’re a big-tent party. We welcome him in,” Suleiman said.

Turkavage also said Trump “has relentlessly attacked the pillars of our democracy that have served our country well for over 200 years,” citing Trump’s attacks on the press, the election process and the courts; and Trump’s questioning “the accuracy of reporting by our intelligence agencies ... while alleged intelligence provided to him by our Russian adversary is routinely accepted at face value.”

National Security has always been, and remains, his top concern, Turkavage said.

“To the delight of our adversaries, President Trump’s immigration policy has caused many Americans to view immigration as the preeminent national security threat,” Turkavage said. “I disagree. The threats posed by hypersonic weapons being developed by Russia and China, and the lack of cyber security as it pertains to our missile defense systems and our electrical grid pose a far greater risk to our security than immigration lawbreakers.”

Turkavage said he learned the importance of meeting people in the 2018 primary.

“I was a relative unknown in the party, while everyone had heard of Seth Grossman,” Turkavage said. “When people actually hear me speak and articulate what the issues are, I could bring a lot of Democrats and probably a good 10% of Republicans that I believe are vehemently opposed to President Trump.”

But he said he has “no illusions it’s going to be easy.”

On the Democratic side, announced candidates include Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett; West Cape May Commissioner John Francis; and Longport homeowner and Montclair State University professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, who has the support of six of the eight Democratic county chairmen in the district.

Considering runs are Brigantine’s Amy Kennedy, a former teacher and wife of former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy; Tanzie Youngblood, a candidate against Van Drew in the 2018 Democratic primary who lives in Swedesboro and is a retired educator; and Cumberland County Freeholder Jack Surrency.

The three GOP primary challengers are Egg Harbor Township’s Brian Fitzherbert, founder of the Atlantic County Young Republicans; Bob Patterson, of Haddonfield and Ocean City, a former acting associate commissioner at the Social Security Administration; and David Richter, of Avalon, the former head of a Philadelphia-based contracting firm.

Contact: 609-272-7219

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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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