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GALLOWAY – In a stunning repudiation of the South Jersey Democratic Organization that backs her rival, mental health specialist Amy Kennedy today soundly defeated Montclair University Political Science Professor Brigid Harrison for the support of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee.
Significantly, the win in this key primary county gave Kennedy of Brigantine her only line victory in the pre-primary season’s lone contested convention. A loss by Kennedy would have put her candidacy substantially back on her heels. A win gives her a burst of momentum.
After a long afternoon at a well attended convention (out of a total 337 delegates in the party here in this county, 275 attended) it proved a robust, first-ballot victory in a competitive developing primary that will decide who the Democrats run against U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2).
Unofficial results: Robert “Turk” Turkavage: two votes.
Ashley Bennett: 10 votes.
Will Cunningham: 21 votes.
Brigid Harrison: 73 votes.
Kennedy: 157 votes.
Democrats here appeared very motivated here this afternoon.
A peach of a target, Van Drew switched his party affiliation last year and subsequently brought fellow Republican President Donald Trump to Wildwood, spurring galvanized Democrats looking for payback.
At this point, Harrison has won – with the backing of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) – the uncontested party organization lines in six other counties that compose portions of the 2nd District. Even U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez threw in with Harrison in the grind-down to today’s convention, enhancing her support from the party establishment.
It all wasn’t enough here (and in fact Camden proved an albatross, a source insisted on the heels of tdya’s Atlantic vote), in a very in-the-weeds, house-to-house contest for delegate support. Winning the Atlantic County line, the Kennedy campaign noted in the aftermath, “has historically been an indication that the campaign is in a strong position to win the party’s nomination.”
Galloway went 26 to 2 for Kennedy, a source unofficially told InsiderNJ during the voting, deflating Harrison backers in the corner of the room who believed their candidate was done before the end of the voting process mostly based on the mood.
“It’s going to be a question of how much,” a source told InsiderNJ, referring early to Kennedy’s imminent victory.
The speeches were three minutes apiece.
“I have earned everything,” Harrison told delegates this afternoon prior to the vote. “I am humbly asking for your vote.”
It didn’t ultimately translate to this charged room.
Both Harrison and Kennedy have deep local roots here, and have proved strong rivals. But the victor’s support in Atlantic City – the biggest city in the county – gave her a big foundational bounce at this Atlantic County convention.
Before winning, Kennedy – the daughter of a local mayor down here – acknowledged she married a Kennedy (former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who was in the room today), and it is widely understood that she will have access to national-sized money (in a primary and general) on the strength of her husband’s family political network.
“I did get married and get a pretty good last name,” she cracked.
But “I was born in Atlantic City,” she added.
The comment prompted sustained applause.
When she mentioned that she logged 12 years as a school teacher, a source in the room said, “there you go,” admitting another key part of her delegate support in the room.
Like Harrison in her speech prior, Kennedy attacked President Donald J. Trump and his policies.
“It is not okay that our unions are under attack day by day or that our environment is being sold off to the strongest bidder,” Kennedy said. “There is nobody more motivated [right now] than a parent with young children.
“I will be so proud to stand [up] until Jeff Van Drew goes home,” she added to raucous applause.
In addition to boosting Kennedy’s fortunes, the victory seemed to prove Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairman Mike Suleiman’s promise from the start of an open convention, altough Freeholder Ashley Bennett departed the race with bitter words for the process. “Money doesn’t buy happiness but it sure buys politics,” she said.
Her observation did not seem to have deep resonance among party members who mostly want to beat Trump and beat Van Drew.
ABOVE: Democratic Party insiders Doug Browne and Tony Marino discuss the last BIG Atlantic County Democratic convention in their memory: 1977.
Doug Browne, a Kennedy backer, said of today’s winner, “She’s an Atlantic County candidate, born and raised.”
“Like Brigid,” put in Harrison backer Tony Marino.
“She moved and came back,” Browne said of Harrison.
Browne acknowledged that Democrats will now wage a competitive primary and said he believes Kennedy will win in the end.
“It’s going to be a Democratic year,” he said. “Second, the Kennedy name. Third, she’s good on Democratic issues.”
Browne predicted an Atlantic win for Kennedy before it went down, citing in particular his candidate’s strength in Absecon, Pleasantville, Galloway (Browne’s backyard), and Atlantic City (Craig Callaway country).
“The fact that I won the endorsement of the Atlantic County Democratic Party and the results of the new poll from the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, are further proof of what I have been hearing from voters all across the district,” said Kennedy. “The people in South Jersey are tired of the same old broken machine politics that produced Jeff Van Drew, and ready for someone we can trust, someone who’s one of us and will stand up for us. My family has lived here for four generations—I’m a South Jersey girl through and through—and I can’t wait to be able to make a difference for all of our families in Congress.”
In other news in this animated convention, the party organization’s straw poll this afternoon, Bernie Sanders received 48 votes, and Joe Biden received 205 votes.
Below, Craig Callaway of Atlantic City sizes up the victory for Kennedy in the immediate aftermath:
- Amy Kennedy
- Ashley Bennett
- Atlantic City Democrats
- Atlantic County
- Atlantic County Democrats
- Bernie Sanders
- Bob Menendez
- Brigid Harrison
- Cory Booker
- Craig Callaway
- Donald Trump
- Doug Browne
- George Norcross
- Jeff Van Drew
- Joe Biden
- MIke Suleiman
- NJ Democrats
- Patrick Kennedy
- Rob Turkavage
- Tony Marino
- Will Cunningham
- Working Families NJ
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