Dem looking at challenging N.J. Rep. LoBiondo

ADVERTISEMENT
Bill Hughes, Jr., an attorney and the son of former Rep. Bill Hughes (D), is looking closely at the race, and has been contacted by the DCCC about running.

"I've spoken to the DCCC, I've spoken to and in the process of speaking with other people around the district. I'm still talking to my family. But I hope to have a decision soon," he said.

Hughes declined to give a timeline for his decision, but he agreed he'll have to decide within the next month to enter the race and be competitive.

LoBiondo won his last race easily with 57 percent of the vote, but that was after spending more than $1.3 million to defeat a relatively weak candidate.

Democrats believe he's beatable because New Jersey's 2nd is a swing district with a slight Democratic advantage, and President Obama won it in 2012 and 2008 with more than 50 percent of the vote.

But Hughes may not have a free pass through the primary. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who has previously considered running in the district but decided against it, has told a number of people that he's also interested in the race.

Van Drew did not respond to a request for comment. Hughes, however, said that he would "have no problem" with the prospect of a contested primary.

Democrats believe Hughes could be competitive because of the name recognition he may retain among some familiar with his father.

But national Republican strategists are thrilled at the possibility of Hughes entry into the race, as his career, as a criminal defense lawyer, could provide them ample fodder for attacks.

Hughes worked as the defense attorney for a food vendor who was accused of "human trafficking." The vendor hired 19 migrants who worked 17 hour days for as little as a dollar an hour, according to local news outlet CNY Central — but the charges were dismissed after the vendor paid the migrants.

In another case, Hughes defended Michael J. Ritacco, a former superintendent of schools who pled guilty to participating in a bribery and kickback scheme in what a judge called "the worst case of corruption I've ever seen."

And he defended a police officer that was a part of a corrupt anti-drug unit, who pled guilty to charges that members of the unit "routinely stole drugs and cash from suspected dealers, planted evidence, fabricated arrest reports, and lied while testifying before grand juries," according to one report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Hughes defended his career as a criminal defense attorney and said he'd be glad to discuss his past work.

"If [Republicans want to make an issue out of that that's fine. I have no hesitation about discussing my practice. That's the work that I do," he said.

He noted that most of his political corruption cases had centered on Republican politicians, and that prior to his work in criminal defense law he had served as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice and an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.

Hughes suggested that while he had done his job well, other "constitutional officers" had not — a veiled jab at LoBiondo.

"Lawyers are not the client that they represent. We're here to advise," he said. "I have no problem discharging my duties as a constitutional officer, and in fact I have done so with honor and great success. I can't say the same of other constitutional officers."

He added that Republicans looking to attack him for his work in criminal defense "do so at their own peril."

"It's pretty short-sighted and, quite frankly, it makes them look like spinmeisters. This is why people don't like politics. This is why people don't like government," he said.