State Senate President Steve Sweeney joined six South Jersey Democratic county leaders in announcing their support for Brigid Callahan Harrison as the Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020.
“Brigid will be a strong candidate and a very effective member of Congress who will fight for the Democratic principles and priorities that will best serve the needs of the congressional district, South Jersey, the state of New Jersey and the country,” Sweeney said in a statement.
The current occupant of the seat, freshman U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, is reportedly leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican. The news has not been officially announced, but five key staff members in his Washington office released a letter last weekend saying they had resigned because Van Drew was changing parties.
Freeholder Ernest Coursey also endorsed her Wednesday.
“It was a big day, and there’s more to come,” Harrison said late Wednesday, adding that Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz will soon endorse her. “I’m grateful they are showing leadership and tremendous support.”
Harrison is a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University in Montclair, Essex County. She is a graduate of Stockton University and has a home in Longport.
Harrison said she hopes the endorsements will help the party coalesce behind one candidate, so the party can focus on beating Van Drew next November.
West Cape May Commissioner John Francis has announced he will also run in the Democratic primary, and Brigantine’s Amy Kennedy — the wife of former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy — has announced she has formed an exploratory committee.
Democratic Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett is expected to announce her candidacy soon, and other names have surfaced as possible primary candidates, including Swedesboro’s Tanzie Youngblood, who lost to Van Drew in the 2018 primary.
Harrison has the innate skills, political experience, acquired knowledge and personal commitment to public service to set herself apart, Sweeney said.
County chairs endorsing Harrison are Joseph Andl of Burlington County, James Beach of Camden County, Brendan M. Sciarra of Cape May County, Steven Errickson of Cumberland County, Fred Madden of Gloucester County and Steven Caltabiano of Salem County.
Those six and two others on Tuesday called for Van Drew to return recent donations.
Three candidates also are running on the Republican side: Brian T. Fitzherbert, 30, of Egg Harbor Township; David Richter, 53, who recently moved to Avalon from Princeton; and Robert Patterson, of Camden County and Ocean City.