One candidate is just a bored and “entitled rich guy.”
The other has a “reckless disregard” for the law.
Welcome to the Republican Congressional primary in New Jersey’s Third District in Burlington and Ocean counties.
Curious thing here is that both accusations, which have surfaced in ads and also at a June 16 debate via zoom are true – up to a point.
The acrimony between David Richter and Kate Gibbs is such that the man most enjoying it all may be Andy Kim, the Democratic incumbent who won the district in the “blue wave” election of 2018.
Let’s look at the charges.
Whether Gibbs, a onetime Burlington County freeholder, has a “reckless disregard” for laws may be debatable, but one thing is not in question. As Richter pointed out in an ad months ago that infamously likened her to “Snooki,” Gibbs has, as they say, a past.
She has an arrest record that includes drug possession, public drinking and shoplifting.
Gibbs explained this at the debate by saying she’s not perfect and that her transgressions occurred when “I was a kid and I was dumb.”
The implication here is that many of us growing up have done similar things such as drinking underage and smoking some weed.
Fair point. Then again, shoplifting is an offense that common sense says is more serious than having a few beers on the Boardwalk.
Richter’s problem has nothing to do with adolescent lawbreaking. He’s fending off charges from Gibbs that he’s a carpetbagger. Hence, her label of a bored rich guy looking for a congressional district.
He first planned to run against then Democrat Jeff Van Drew in the neighboring CD-2. But Van Drew became a Republican. With no taste for a primary against an incumbent, Richter put his focus on the Third District.
Of course, an obvious question is, shouldn’t people run where they live? That kind of is the idea of Congress, no?
Richter explained at the debate that he has three houses scattered about south Jersey. They are in Lawrenceville, Avalon and Island Heights, which is the only town in CD-3.
He contended that his natural district is the Third because that is where he grew up – Willingboro in Burlington. And in seeking to establish his roots in the district, Richer made the rather bold claim that he plans to live in CD-3 for the rest of his life. That can be a long time.
To some, these side issues may detract from the more legitimate concerns of a House member, but they really don’t. Keep in mind that primaries are family fights that turn on personal alliances, friendships and such intangibles as one candidate’s criminal record and another’s ties, or lack thereof, to local voters.
That’s because there is general agreement here on most substantive issues.
For instance, both Gibbs and Richter said at the debate that Phil Murphy has done a poor job responding to the pandemic and that health care needs to be fixed. But Obamacare is not the answer. Of course not.
The classic Republican position.
On DACA, which the U.S Supreme Court has just essentially endorsed, both candidates offered qualified support for easing the plight of young children illegally brought to this country by their parents. But both began their answers by expressing support for the president’s border wall.
They also agreed that Social Security, which is a key concern in the district, needs to be bolstered but offered no solutions. Admittedly, this is the so-called third rail of politics, but it would have been nice to hear some talk about raising the retirement age – people are living longer – or raising the amount of income on which Social Security taxes are paid. That didn’t happen.
Those details, however, may not be all that vital to voters in the July 7 primary. They really are general election questions.
The more relevant question now is whether GOP voters select the candidate with a troubled past or one who just relocated to the district.
With that in mind, you get the feeling Andy Kim will be happy with either outcome.