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The 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary race is one of the most hotly contested in the nation, and will be decided in the state's first mainly vote-by-mail primary election.

Emotions have run high in the district ever since freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who was elected as a Democrat, switched parties to Republican after voting "no" on impeaching President Donald Trump.

Van Drew's actions angered and motivated Democrats, who have been fighting hard to replace him.

The district covers all or part of the state's eight southernmost counties.

Five Democrats are vying for the right to try to unseat Van Drew, while Van Drew faces only one Republican opponent, who pundits say has little organizational support or financing. 

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the election to be mostly vote-by-mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to minimize close physical contact at the polls by voters to avoid spreading the coronavirus. He moved the primary to July 7 from its traditional June date to give counties more time to get vote-by-mail ballots and information to voters.

One candidate has asked for federal oversight of the election because of a history of alleged vote-by-mail irregularities in the district, but the U.S. Attorney's Office has not responded to the request.

The three leading candidates are two women and a Black man, and if any of them prevail in the fall it would be historic. Only white men have represented the district throughout its history.

The 2nd District is geographically the state's largest, requiring primary candidates to vie for the support of eight different county party organizations, requiring candidates to travel a great deal to meet with voters. The pandemic, however, has forced candidates to do most of their campaigning since March online.

Below is an alphabetical list of the candidates (Democrats, then Republicans). The list includes basic biographical information and positions on some major issues.

DEMOCRATS

CUNNINGHAM

Will Cunningham, 34, of Vineland, holds a law degree and formerly worked for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and for the House Oversight Committee under late Chairman Elijah Cummings. 

Health care: Fully supports Medicare for All.

Police reform: Supports Justice in Policing Act, elimination of qualified immunity for police, and outlawing chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Cannabis: Supports full legalization of recreational marijuana for adult use on the national level by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act, and expungement of records for those convicted of marijuana offenses.

Climate: Only candidate to support full enactment of the Green New Deal.

FRANCIS

West Cape May Commissioner John Francis, 73, is the author of "Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking" and "The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World." He holds a Ph.D. in environmental science and has worked for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Health care: Supports serious consideration of Medicare for All.

Police reform: Supports Justice in Policing Act, favors eliminating qualified immunity for police, eliminating chokeholds and in general opposes no-knock warrants, but says under extreme circumstances they may be necessary.

Cannabis: Favors legalization for adult use and promotion of cannabis growing in South Jersey, with municipalities allowed to decide if it will be grown within their borders.

Climate: Sees environmental problems as interrelated with how people treat each other, and focuses on improving people's relationships to themselves and others to protect the environment.

HARRISON

Brigid Callahan Harrison, 55, of Longport, is a professor of politics and law at Montclair State University in Essex County. 

Health care: Supports a single-payer system that allows people to keep private insurance and sunsets agreements already made with labor unions, which would negotiate cost-of-living increases once the government takes over the provision of health care.

Police reform: Supports Justice in Policing Act, elimination of qualified immunity for police, and outlawing chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Cannabis: Supports full legalization of recreational marijuana for adult use, regulating it through the federal government and expungement of records for those convicted of marijuana offenses.

Climate: Favors total ban on offshore drilling off New Jersey, rejoining Paris Climate Agreement and 100% clean energy by 2050.

KENNEDY

Amy Kennedy, 41, of Brigantine, holds a master's degree in environmental education, taught at the Northfield Community School and is now the education director of the Kennedy Forum, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health and addiction issues.

Health care: Favors moving away from a system that ties health care to employment, expansion of the Affordable Care Act and making sure “Medicare will be available to all those who want it.”

Police reform: Supports Justice in Policing Act, elimination of qualified immunity for police, and outlawing chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Cannabis: Does not support recreational legalization, but favors decriminalization and expungement of records for those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.

Climate: Supports the 100% Clean Energy Economy Act to reach a net-zero economy by 2050 and the CLEAN Future Act, which would give governments and the private sector support and flexibility to address climate change.

TURKAVAGE

Robert Turkavage, 64, of Brigantine, is a retired FBI agent who switched parties to Democrat late last year because of his opposition to President Donald Trump.

Health care: Favors preserving the Affordable Care Act, including pre-existing conditions coverage, by reinstating the individual mandate penalty.

Police reform: Favors better training for police officers and more careful use of, but not elimination of, no-knock warrants.

Cannabis: Opposes legalization for recreational use and favors dropping criminal charges for possession of small amounts to a misdemeanor.

Climate: Supports maintaining methane-related regulations and would advocate for a return to the vehicle fuel economy standards sought by the Obama administration. Favors reentering the Paris Climate Agreement to combat greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

REPUBLICANS

PATTERSON

Bob Patterson recently moved his permanent address to Ocean City from Haddonfield, Camden County, to run in the district. He was the Republican nominee who ran in 2018 against Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st, in the district that covers Camden and its surroundings. After a long career in business and government, he worked for the Trump administration as a senior adviser and acting associate commissioner at the Social Security Administration.

Economy: Favors supporting neglected economic sectors at home, such as manufacturing, transportation and defense industries, to build up the working and middle classes.

Immigration: Favors ensuring American jobs go to American workers, building a wall along America’s southern border, creating a foolproof entry-and-exit system and establishing an airtight employment-verification system. Opposes amnesty deals.

Israel: Supports continued military aid to Israel and continued investment in economic and military partnerships with Israel, and President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Abortion: Strongly pro-life and opposes support for Planned Parenthood.

Gun rights: Fervent supporter of Second Amendment rights.

VAN DREW (INCUMBENT)

Jeff Van Drew, 67, was first elected to Congress in 2018 as a Democrat. The district had been held by Republican Frank LoBiondo for more than 20 years. Van Drew, a dentist, spent decades in the state Legislature as an assemblyman and then a senator.

Economy: Wants to bring manufacturing jobs back to South Jersey and promote tourism, and favors government doing more to help the agriculture and fishing industries.

Immigration: Favors comprehensive reform, strengthening border security, cracking down on employers who violate laws, increasing the accessibility of visas for high-skilled workers, and allowing law-abiding immigrants to earn citizenship and pay taxes.

Israel: Favors the U.S. position that the State of Israel has an undeniable right to exist and thrive with the same sense of security and economic self-determination as any other nation in the Middle East.

Abortion: Pro-choice, but opposes late-term abortions.

Gun rights: Strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

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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