WEST DEPTFORD – Ed Durr talked Thursday about his plans for the next few days.
He’s up at 2 a.m. tomorrow to “drop a trailer” at a few locations and on Sunday, “I’ll run all the way up to Suffern, New York.”
These are not ordinary activities for a state senator. Then again, Durr, a 59-year-old truck driver, is not your ordinary senator.
He created a sensation and became a political celebrity of sorts in 2021 when he won a state senate seat in LD-3 by beating Democrat Steve Sweeney. Of course, he was no ordinary senator either. As Senate President, Sweeney was by most accounts the second most powerful political person in the state.
State legislators – even in New Jersey – do not garner all that much public attention. So, Durr is still surprised that his triumph over Sweeney resonated far beyond the Delaware.
All of a sudden, Durr was chatting with Tucker Carlson and giving interviews to other conservative outlets. Here was the guy, they said, who spent little money and toppled a powerful Democrat in “blue New Jersey.”
That’s true, but not 100 percent true.
LD-3 ranges over at least parts of three southern counties – Salem, Gloucester and Cumberland. While Sweeney and fellow Dems represented the district in the Legislature for years, the region is not to be confused with Montclair. And Durr’s win came in what was a good year for Republicans. Recall that Phil Murphy sweated out a close reelection win in 2021 over Jack Ciattarelli.
Durr, who likes the “Ed the Trucker” moniker, says he’s adjusted well to politics over lunch at a local diner. You’d expect politicians to be a bit more, shall we say, pompous, than truck drivers, but Durr says he has no trouble with that.
“I think it’s my natural filter. I can discern what is real and what is fake,” he said.
He says he’s running for reelection to finish what we started, adding, “I think I’ve represented the people well.”
Durr was energized a few years ago when he discovered how hard it is to get a concealed carry permit in New Jersey. Support for the Second Amendment is still a strong passion of his, but he also listed “special needs” as a legislative priority.
Specifically, Durr talked of a bill he is sponsoring that would install cameras in group homes for those with developmental disabilities. The goal is to record – and eventually prosecute – those who abuse residents. This seems like a no-brainer, but Durr says he can’t get the bill to a committee vote. He’s also unhappy that his legislation to train firefighters to deal with electric vehicle fires has gone nowhere.
A more relevant political problem is coming at Durr from his own district.
Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, who was elected with him in 2021, is challenging Durr in the June GOP primary.
Sawyer says bluntly that Durr won’t win in November, a view that suggests his win two years ago was a fluke.
Just for the record, the Democratic candidate will be John Burzichelli, who was one of the assemblymen Sawyer beat in 2021.
Most recently, Sawyer lambasted Durr for refusing to debate her.
“So much for the tough guy, trucker act,” she said in a statement.
Durr seems unconcerned.
“What is there to debate?” he asked.
Durr went on to say that he backs the Second Amendment, parental rights and health freedom.
“As far as I know, she agrees with everything I said,” Durr observed.
Broadly speaking, primary candidates often share the same political philosophy. The difference sometimes has to do with personality and who is best in touch with average voters. Debates can help pinpoint those distinctions.
Durr says he’s begun campaigning and the response has been good. OK, but here’s a cautionary note. Have you ever heard a candidate say he’s getting a lousy response on the campaign trail?
Durr may still be a bit new to this, but he dished up a politician’s answer when it came to the primary. He said there are two ways to run – unopposed and scared.
“And I’m not unopposed.”