David Richter, the former CEO of a construction company, emerged Wednesday as the presumptive winner of a closely watched Republican primary in South Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District and will face freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim.

Elections officials still have to count thousands of ballots in an election that was mostly conducted by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic. But early returns showed a wide enough margin for Richter that his opponent, Kate Gibbs, conceded the race around midnight. Richter led with 67% of the vote to Gibbs’ 33% in early returns.

“Tonight’s election didn’t have the outcome I had hoped for, but I am extremely proud of the race we ran,” Gibbs, a former Burlington County freeholder, said in a statement. “While I move on to the next chapter of my life, I will continue to fight for what is right and stand up for conservative principles.”

Gibbs was the early Republican favorite in the 3rd Congressional District. But the race was upended when Richter abandoned his earlier bid to challenge first-term Rep. Jeff Van Drew in the 2nd District. Van Drew, a longtime Democrat, broke with his party over the impeachment of President Donald Trump and became a Republican. Trump allies then largely cleared the GOP primary field for Van Drew, pushing Richter to run in another district.

Kim, who defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018 by less than two percentage points and is expected to face a close race again, has built a formidable war chest with $3.5 million in his campaign account.

“I’m running for reelection to continue serving my hometown community,” Kim said Tuesday night. “My parents taught me that service isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life.”

Richter, the former chief executive of Hill International, lent his campaign $600,000 and spent most of it. Gibbs’ campaign spent about $200,000 and was backed by an outside group that spent $225,000 on anti-Richter ads, according to Federal Election Commission records.

His victory was powered by huge margins in Ocean County, where he had the support of the local GOP. He had 79% of the vote there. Gibbs had a narrower lead in her home county of Burlington.

The district spans Burlington and Ocean counties. Burlington County, which provided close to 60% of the district’s voters in 2018, has skewed liberal of late, while Ocean remains solidly conservative. Forty percent of voters in the district are registered without a party affiliation.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign arm, said Richter “will be a breath of fresh air by giving voters a representative who actually follows through on his campaign promises to put them first.”

“Andy Kim sold voters a false bill of goods when he promised he’d be a pragmatic problem solver and instead went to Washington and became a rubber stamp for the extreme socialist agenda of House Democrats,” Emmer said in a statement.

NJ Primary Results 2020 as of July 13

As of 4:30 p.m. on July 13, 31,625 of an estimated 45,000 ballots cast in the July 7 primary had been counted in Atlantic County. Atlantic County numbers are updated to July 13, but not other counties.

County Race Candidate Party Votes
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small D 3,326
Atlantic City Mayor Pamela Thomas-Fields D 1,627
Atlantic City Mayor James Whitehead D 243
Atlantic City Mayor Thomas Forkin R 403
Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler D 15,985
Atlantic County Sheriff Joseph O'Donoghue R 11,029
Atlantic County Surrogate Stephen Dicht D 12,991
Atlantic County Surrogate Levi Fox D 2,877
Atlantic County Surrogate James Curcio R 11,174
Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick D 15,660
Atlantic County Freeholder Celeste Fernandez D 15,701
Atlantic County Freeholder John Risley Jr R 11,213
Atlantic County Freeholder James Toto R 10,876
Atlantic County Freholder D3 Andrew Parker R 2,187
Atlantic County Freholder D3 Thelma Witherspoon D 3,184
Barnegat Township Township Committee Alfonso Cirulli R 1,668
Barnegat Township Township Committee Joseph Marte R 1,662
Barnegat Township Township Committee Charles Cunliffe D 1,644
Barnegat Township Township Committee Peggy Houle D 1,691
Cape May County Freeholder Elizabeth Casey D 5,504
Cape May County Freeholder Brendan Sciarra D 5,285
Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey R 6,624
Cape May County Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson R 6,535
Lacey Township Township Committee Nicholas Juliano R 1,980
Lacey Township Township Committee Bill Stemmle D 1,286
Lakewood Township Committee Michael D’Elia R 4,805
Lakewood Township Committee Hector Fuentes R 4,632
Lakewood Township Committee Harold Herskowitz R 1,391
Lakewood Township Committee Ray Coles D 2,110
Lakewood Township Committee Mordy Gross D 1,977
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Ray Gormley R 1,632
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee John Kehm R 1,603
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Gabriel Franco D 1,273
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Shaun Moran D 1,264
Lower Township Mayor Christopher South D 1,323
Lower Township Mayor Frank Sippel R 1,455
Middle Township Township Committee Bob Jackson D 987
Middle Township Township Committee Timothy Donohue R 1,091
Ocean County County Clerk Scott Colabella R 39,146
Ocean County County Clerk Kathy Russell D 31,413
Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari R 38,731
Ocean County Freeholder Helen Dela Cruz D 31,398
Ocean Township Township Committee Ken Baulderstone R 1,019
Ocean Township Township Committee Rita Kopacz D 567
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