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New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew has found himself in a tight race for reelection as he faces Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy in the 2nd Congressional District in the Garden State.
Kennedy, who married into the political dynasty, is leading in the polls by 5 percentage points over the incumbent candidate, who won his 2018 House race by the same 5-point margin – but as a Democrat, not a Republican.
Van Drew made a name for himself as one of the most ardent critics of President Trump's impeachment and prided himself as a moderate Democrat from a traditionally conservative district, which Trump won in 2016, 51-46 against Hillary Clinton.
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But by December 2019 as the impeachment proceedings were ramping up in Congress, Van Drew made the decision to drop the D for an R, and defected to the GOP after receiving some negative internal polling from constituents.
Van Drew, who flipped a longtime Republican seat held by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, beating his Republican challenger Seth Grossman, apparently thought his negative stance on the impeachment proceedings were to blame.
The now-Republican congressman’s announcement was made just one day after the House voted to pass the articles of impeachment, during which he promised the president “undying support.”
“I’m reevaluating my life and my thoughts,” Van Drew told reporters in December 2019.
A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month found that half of all voters from his district were “bothered” by his change of party, including 15% of Republican voters — meaning his party change which was meant to save him in the polls, could cost him his reelection.
“It felt like he was willing to do or say anything to keep his job,” Kennedy told Politico. “There are a lot of people in the district who really respect someone who can be independent-minded, but that’s not what that felt like to them.”
Kennedy, a former school teacher, reportedly decided to run for office after hearing of Van Drew’s decision to defect.
But Van Drew believes his decision to establish himself with the GOP was not a betrayal to his constituents, telling Politico, “You vote for the person,” not the party.
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“I didn’t betray anybody,” he said. “When people call me up and they need help, whatever party they are, I help them.”
But despite Van Drew’s previous calls for bipartisanship, he has turned to criticizing the “radical left” along with the other members of the GOP.
Following his primary race in July, Van Drew thanked the president for his support and condemned his opponents on the left.
“While the Democrats were tripping over each other to appease the Radical Left in a bitter and divisive primary, our Republican Party came together and is united as we head into the General Election,” the congressman said in a statement.
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President Trump endorsed Van Drew’s reelection bid, but Democrats have used his December decision to mock their challenger, calling him “Switcheroo Van Drew.”
Van Drew and Kennedy could not be immediately reached by Fox News for comment.
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