Scan the Facebook page of CD-3 Republican candidate Bob Healey and you’ll find him standing on one leg and talking about Joint Base McGuire, a key military installation in not only the district, but the state.
To be sure, this is not your normal congressional primary between Healey and Ian Smith.
Healey’s family business is building yachts.
Smith became known – and famous in right wing circles – for refusing to close his gym/health club in violation of state pandemic regulations.
So in some ways, this is a contest between a traditional Republican businessman and populist outlier.
But it’s more than that, which brings us to Healey standing on one leg.
Soon after Smith began protesting pandemic rules, it surfaced that back in 2007, he was involved in a drunk driving crash that killed a 19-year-old man. He was sentenced to five-plus years in prison.
Smith has not shied away from acknowledging his crime and expressing his remorse. Yet in late March, he was arrested and again charged with drunk driving in Cinnaminson. Smith has professed his innocence and also has commented on the balance tests police officers normally give drivers suspected of being intoxicated, one of which is to stand on one foot for about a minute.
Smith’s point is not outlandish – it’s awfully hard to stand on one foot for that long even if you haven’t been drinking.
So he demonstrated how “easy” it is by posting a video of himself standing on one foot for a bit more than a minute. And he talked about McGuire.
That was because in a recent debate, Smith seemed to know little about the base, which is in Burlington County.
This was a curious thing not to know much about. The base, which is actually three bases in one, houses thousands of service members and employees and contributes almost $5 million to the local economy annually. Moreover, because such bases are always susceptible to closure, it is the local congress member’s responsibility to fight to keep them open.
Yet, on the other hand, Smith’s appeal seems to be that he’s an outsider and not obliged to kowtow to politics as usual.
Some of his other comments bear that out.
For example, while Kevin McCarthy seems destined to become House Speaker if Republicans gain control, Smith says he prefers either Jim Jordan of Ohio or Paul Gosar of Arizona. Jordan is very much a conservative firebrand, but Gosar has been criticized even by fellow House members for speaking to white nationalist groups.
Then there’s SALT.
As all who care about this know, the state and local tax deduction is now capped at $10,000, adversely affecting many New Jerseyans who pay more than that in property taxes alone. Most Republicans, Healey among them, support eliminating, or at least raising, the cap.
He has suggested that the cap hurts only those who are wealthy – people like Healey.
As we said, Smith clearly likes being an outsider and part of his appeal is that the GOP establishment is as awful (almost) as the Democrats.
However, Joint Base McGuire by any analysis is important to the district and the SALT cap doesn’t hurt just the affluent. There may be limits as to how far this appeal will take Smith.
The primary winner, of course, will take on Andy Kim in a district that has become more Democratic after the 2020 Census. That’s because it lost a good chunk of Ocean County and picked up a bit of Mercer.
But that’s six months away; the primary is in three weeks.
A spokesman for the Smith campaign said the candidate plans on a lot of door knocking between now and June 7. A spokesperson for Healey was not available to comment today.
Smith is also claiming that Healey is dodging a debate set for May 25 by the League of Women Voters.
A previous debate produced one of the most fascinating lines one has ever heard in such a setting.
Healey once headed a punk rock band and as is well-known, the lyrics can be a bit “rough.”
When this was brought up, Healey observed:
“I may have sung in my past about killing someone, Ian actually did kill someone.”