A member of the Democratic Party’s most prominent political dynasty is running for office in New Jersey, but in a completely unknown position – as an outsider.
Amy Kennedy, a former teacher who grew up in southern New Jersey and is married to former MP Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), Announced her campaign for Congress in the 2nd district of New Jersey in January shortly after Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) Switched parties from Democrat to Republican.
Until then, however, South Jersey’s powerful democratic machine, run by energy broker George Norcross – the same operation that built Van Drew’s career and drove him to Congress in 2018 – had chosen political science professor Brigid Harrison as the preferred candidate.
Now a Kennedy is the outsider who has set himself the challenge of challenging a deeply rooted political machine in a sprawling swing district that stretches from Atlantic City west to the Delaware River and which POLITICO classifies as a “lean Republican”.
A Harrison win in the Democratic area code on July 7th would strengthen the Norcross machine’s performance and show that it was not affected by increasingly active and excited progressives. On the other hand, a Kennedy victory would be a moral boost for the anti-Norcross activists, who have previously had difficulty putting their local candidates on the ballot, let alone support a victorious candidate for Congress.
“Since the start of this race, the machine has been trying to stack the deck for the candidate of their choice just as it did for Jeff Van Drew with manipulated annotations and dirty tricks,” Kennedy said in an interview.
But, according to Harrison, Kennedy was looking for the outsider label, using the work Harrison did to drive Van Drew out of the Democratic Party.
“I find it insulting when someone says that something was given to me because nothing was given to me. I didn’t marry a name and said it justifies anything, ”said Harrison in a phone interview, referring to the support she received from the South Jersey machine. “I worked for my background, my expertise and the support of the people who decided to support me.”
The primary competition would probably not be a big competition if Van Drew hadn’t spoken out against President Donald Trump’s impeachment
During the nearly two decades that he served in the General Assembly and Senate, New Jersey Democratic chiefs gave Van Drew votes that were directed against much of his party on issues such as gun control, same-sex marriage, and minimum wages because he had one Republican represented -Leaning Legislative District. But when Van Drew was elected to Congress in 2018 in an otherwise democratic anti-Trump wave from a relatively Trump-friendly district, that changed.
Van Drew’s refusal to support Trump’s impeachment prompted his democratic supporters to leave, prompting him to switch parties and pledge to the president his “immortal support.” The party machine that once supported him quickly got behind Harrison, with six of the district’s eight Democratic leaders and a long list of local politicians supporting their offer.
Harrison said she spent November “harassing” party leaders over the need to get rid of Van Drew. In the same month she wrote one op-ed about why he was “wrong about impeachment,” which prompted speculation that had led her.
She also turned to her contacts in the district, including Jerry Savell, her school counselor, because she knew his daughter Amy was married to Patrick Kennedy. This led to a meeting between Harrison and Patrick Kennedy, at which Harrison claims he agreed to serve on their finance committee.
Days later, Amy Kennedy announced her candidacy.
“Amy and others … somehow twisted the narrative to give the appearance of being ordained high up,” said Harrison. “What nobody was there for – and if you speak to the party chairs, they’ll tell you that I was a kind of pain in the neck. I insisted that they not run [Van Drew] again as a democrat. And that’s why I deserve your support. “
Josh Roesch, Kennedy’s campaign manager, said Patrick Kennedy had met with Harrison, “at her request before Amy decided to run for Congress – which obviously made his decision about who to support very easy.”
In campaign statements, Kennedy attacked Norcross, who last year fought for government tax incentives with democratic governor Phil Murphy, which two of his brothers had designed and which his own insurance broker and a hospital system he used exploited.
Before her run, Harrison, who teaches political science at Montclair State University in North Jersey, wrote one op-ed Defend Norcross.
Last week, Kennedy’s campaign launched an online ad titled “Game of Thrones,” portraying Norcross as the villain in the series, “who rolled his arms and endowed elementary school with Brigid’s back room deals.”
Despite her bumps against Norcross and the South Jersey machine, Kennedy sought and received the support of a smaller, rival political machine in Atlantic City, led by former City Council President Craig Callaway Released from jail in 2010 after 3 1/2 years for bribery. With Callaway’s support, Kennedy received the party’s approval of democratic, voting Atlantic County – a crucial step that made the area code a real competition.
Callaway’s past has opened Kennedy to charges of political opportunism. Harrison’s campaign suggested in a memo from April that Kennedy had paid for his support.
When she was asked whether her campaign or someone related to her had paid or hired Callaway, she refused, stressing that her roots in Atlantic County – her father was an elected local official – helped her would have to win the congress.
“I’m not going to talk about certain aspects of our campaign strategy, but it will be important that we increase all political participation and all votes.” can be heard in this district, ”said Kennedy.
Norcross spokesman Dan Fee described Kennedy’s attacks on Norcross as surprising, “since George indicated that he would support any candidate if the Kennedys asked him for advice and advice before announcing the campaign.”
“What is bizarre is that Amy Kennedy would raise the issue of corruption, since her campaign is working with two people – Dave Parano and Sue Altman – who are currently undergoing multiple law enforcement investigations and working with Craig Callaway, who went to prison for bribery and extortion, ”said Fee.
The charge, which was made against Altman, state director of the progressive New Jersey Working Family Alliance, and Parano, an adviser to the group made from Camden County’s Democratic leader, James Beach, on petition signatures filed for candidates in multiple districts of the 2nd district. Altman who made the claim “Gangster style intimidation“she said, has heard from no law enforcement agency.
On the subjects, Kennedy and Harrison both sound progressive notes. Both have called for Medicare to be expanded, but neither has endorsed the Medicare for All idea, which is supported by many recent left-wing voices. Harrison is to the left of Kennedy on marijuana and advocates the legalization of recreational activities, while Kennedy – whose husband is an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization – demands decriminalization but not full legalization.
Both women have called for curbing the influence of money in politics and overturned the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling Citizens United, which allowed Super-PACs to collect and spend unlimited amounts of money to support candidates and causes. Kennedy was supported by the End Citizens United group.
“For me, it’s not about which one [candidates] are more progressive, but exactly what people are looking for, ”said Kennedy. “Especially in this pandemic and as we will see that someone really has to stand up for workers’ rights.”
Kennedy was able to use her family’s donation resources to financially dominate the race, although most of the party machine works against her.
Since joining the race, Kennedy has raised $ 816,330, including $ 250,000 from a personal loan. Harrison has raised $ 258,345 since she took part in the race in December, including a $ 100,000 personal loan.
The New Jersey Working Families Alliance, which has become a major opponent of Norcross’s tax incentive issue and has received partial funding from public sector unions that have been arguing with Norcross for years, has supported Kennedy.
“With the Norcross machine, they can usually throw their weight around and use their muscles and resources,” Altman said in a telephone interview. “It is a completely different ball game if the challenger has resources. Then it will be a fight between equals.”
There is a third candidate in the race: Will Cunningham, who has a more progressive platform than both. Cunningham, a former congressional assistant who grew up poor to a single mother and was homeless as a teenager, ran against Van Drew in the 2018 Democratic Elementary School.
Cunningham said in a phone interview that he was the real progress in the race, and reiterated the criticism of Harrison’s campaign for more than $ 10,000 in donations from executives from Wellpath, a controversial company that operates health services in some for-profit prisons and its board Patrick Kennedy recently joined.
“Amy Kennedy is not a really progressive one,” said Cunningham. “Progressives are for the legalization of recreational marijuana. Amy Kennedy is not. Progressives are for single-paying healthcare where the government covers everyone. Amy Kennedy is not there. Progressives don’t take money from the profit-making prison industry. “
But Cunningham has no support for the establishment, and even prominent progressives have made the practical decision to support Kennedy instead.
“A lot has to do with viability,” said Altman. “We want to choose candidates who have the best chance of beating Jeff Van Drew in this area and where we are sitting is Amy Kennedy.”