One could make the case that Mike Testa scared Jeff Van Drew into becoming a Republican.
But you won’t hear Senator Testa (R-1) make that case.
Testa ran against the “Van Drew Team” last year, and his flattening of those three incumbents arguably strongly contributed to Van Drew changing from a “D” to an “R” jersey.
That white flag reaction met with bitterness and anger from Democrats – and welcome arms from Testa, who chairs the reelection campaign for President Donald J. Trump in New Jersey.
“Nobody knows the legislative district like Jeff Van Drew, and I think he does transcend party,” Testa told InsiderNJ in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview. “I don’t think Jeff Van Drew would say he left the party so much as – like Ronald Reagan – the Democrat Party left him.”
Van Drew, in fact, made just such a statement in the Oval Office when he pledged his loyalty to the presdient, lampooned in a netwoork television ad by the House Majority PAC.
But it’s not a laughing matter to Testa. What he focuses on, in his words, is “How far left the Democrat Party went and left him. People alleged that Jeff made the switch out of a sense of political expediency. But the truth is he left a majority party for a minority party in the midst of an impeachment. What history will show is that this was a profile in courage. There was no place for him in the party.”
Van Drew will beat Kennedy, Testa said.
“And he will have coattails in our district,” said the senator, a Vineland attorney who also chairs the Cumberland Republican Party. “He will help our ticket, not hurt it. I think he wins and I think he wins big. I don’t believe the Kennedy name carries any heavy load in southern New Jersey.”
He pointed to Joe Kennedy’s loss in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary as “proof that the Kennedy name doesn’t hold weight.”
“I don’t feel most voters feel any connection with Camelot,” said the 1st Legislative District senator. “I don’t believe the South Jersey voter likes the entitlement mentality.”
When he ran for his senate seat and won decisively last year, Testa targeted Van Drew’s record on infrastruture, which he bemoaned. But he reserved his most focused attacks – and his most significant advertisement – for Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.
“Unfortunality, South Jersey has been forgotten by Trenton,” said Testa. “Jeff Van Drew knows South Jersey better than anybody. He has been a very loud voice, as I have, in Trenton. I don’t see how anyone can argue, with any kind of intellectual honesty, that Amy Kennedy is a champion of infrastructure.”
She did release a plan here.
“She’s completely new on the South Jersey political scene,” argued Testa, who criticized her for presenting herself as an advocate for mental health while standing alongside Governor Murphy, whose budget originally “cut key school district” mental health components.
Testa has been a routine and aggressive critic of Murphy’s maintenance of the COVID-19 crisis, arguing that the governor’s orders severely harmed small businesses in South Jersey. Murphy and his allies say they made those moves in the interest of public health in the midst of a pandemic.
“Atlantic and Cape May counties are the number one and two generators of tourism in this state, and amid the endless executive orders you didn’t hear one word out of Amy Kennedy,” Testa argued. “His and her message do not resonate.”