How well do you know NJ’s 2nd Congressional district?
This particular district shot to prominence nationally when the sitting Congressman Jefferson Van Drew fled the Democratic Party and landed in the welcoming arms of President Donald J. Trump.
Trump is scheduled to return the favor at a pro-Van Drew rally in Wildwood on January 28.
Geographically this district covers the bottom quarter (third?) of New Jersey. It’s big. Also known as CD2, this district encompasses all of Cape May, Atlantic, Salem, and Cumberland Counties.
The district include large swathes of Ocean and Gloucester plus tiny bits of Camden and Burlington. That’s all or parts of 8 counties, if you’ve lost track.
Atlantic County is home to three leading Democrats who’ll battle to take on Van Drew in November. Brigid Harrison lives in Longport, Ashley Bennett resides in Egg Harbor Township, and Amy Kennedy calls Brigantine home.
All three have deep roots in South Jersey.
Atlantic County (est. pop. 270,000) accounts for roughly 38% of NJ’s 713,380 residents. You might think that favors Atlantic County when it came time to choose a congressman.
Micah Rasmussen runs the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey politics at Rider University.
“It’s interesting that given how much of the district Atlantic County makes up, four white men from Cape May and Cumberland County have dominated it for the past fifty years,” Mr. Rasmussen told InsiderNJ, referring to Congressmen Charles Sandman, Bill Hughes, Frank LoBiondo and now Van Drew.
I hope y’all are ready for a history lesson, because it’s coming.
“The last time an Atlantic County resident held the seat was the 50s and 60s, when Milton Glenn and Tom McGrath, both of Margate, were each in office,” Mr Rasmussen told InsiderNJ.
Congressman McGrath left office in January 1967.
“Since then, Sandman of Lower Township, Cape May held it until Watergate. Then Bill Hughes of Ocean City, Cape May held it until Gingrich’s Contract with America. Frank LoBiondo handily beat Bill Gormley’s attempt to win the GOP primary in 1994, and stayed until just last year.”
That’s when Van Drew of Dennis Township (pop 6.5k) in Cape May County won the seat vacated by LoBo in 2018.
“So if we sound like we focus on Cape May County too much, given its relative share of the district, it may be because Cape May has had the seat for 30 of the last 50 years.”
NJ’s 2nd Congressional district is by far the largest in the state.
“It stretches from the Barnegat Lighthouse all the way to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is absolutely astounding,” Mr Rasmussen pointed out. “It would take you two hours to drive from one to the other– which may not be a big deal in many parts of the country, but for a district in the northeast, is unheard of,”
Then he spelled it out for anyone unfamiliar with South Jersey’s geography.
“Just think of the length of the Garden State Parkway that district comprises– Mile 0 to Mile 63 more than a third of the length of the entire roadway,” Mr Rasmussen said. “And that doesn’t even count the additional miles it takes to get from Mile 0 all the way down to Cape May Point.”
Two of the larger towns in NJ’s 2nd are Vineland and Atlantic City. AC, located in Atlantic County, is home to roughly 38,000 residents. Vineland, (pop. 60k) is the largest town in Cumberland County and the 24th most populous city in the state.
Derek Harper spent much of his career covering towns in CD2 for Press of Atlantic City.
“Because the the biggest cities are on opposite ends of the district, it’s really hard to get name recognition and run across the district, which is why the congressmen [and only men thus far] have all been public office holders,” Mr. Harper told InsiderNJ.
The three most populous municipalities in Cape May County are called Lower, Middle, and Upper Township. Isn’t that quirky? Lower is biggest with a population topping 22,000. Middle (pop. 19k) and Upper (12k) round out the top three. Cape May’s total population is roughly 95,000, the second smallest in the state. Only Salem County, also part of CD2, has fewer with 62,000 residents.
Bound by water on two of its tree sides, only the northern edge is this triangular-shaped district susceptible to whatever chaos redistricting might bring. So you can probably expect redistricting, that once a decade redrawing of political boundaries, to effect CD2’s boundaries least among NJ’s 12 Congressional districts.
According to Derek Harper, who covered the Atlantic City beat for ages, this district’s geography and topography make it vulnerable to the wrath of nasty weather.
“The district has been identified as one of the most vulnerable to global warming, considering its high point above sea level is about 50 feet,” Mr. Harper pointed out.
Now that Congressman Van Drew is a newly minted Republican, he may no longer believe in climate change. But you can bet his democratic challengers do!
One more reason this November’s congressional showdown is such a juicy one. We’ll be covering it with vigor! And in the meantime we look forward to getting to know the democrats squaring off to take on Van Drew this November.
Jay Lassiter is an award winning writer, podcaster, and videographer.
- Amy Kennedy
- Ashley Bennett
- Atlantic County
- Bill Hughes
- Brigid Harrison
- Cape May County
- Cape May Point
- Charles Sandman
- Dennis Township
- Derek Harper
- Egg Harbor Township
- Frank LoBiondo
- Jay Lassiter
- Jeff Van Drew
- Jefferson Van Drew
- Lower Township
- Micah Rasmussen
- Middle Township
- Milton Glenn
- Newt Gingrich
- Ocean City
- Press of Atlantic City
- Rebovich Institute
- Rider University
- Tony McGrath
- Upper Township
Click here for the full Insider Index