Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew

Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew
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Former teacher and mental health advocate Amy Kennedy won the Democratic primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, setting her up to go head-to-head against Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Jefferson Van Drew in November.

Kennedy was leading with 54.7 percent of the vote after 30 percent of precincts had reported, prevailing over her closest rival, political science professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, who received 31.8 percent, according to The Associated Press.

Van Drew, previously a dentist, has emerged as a top target for Democrats after he left the party last year and opposed President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE's impeachment.

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The first-term lawmaker defeated Republican Seth Grossman by nearly 8 points in 2018 for an open seat vacated by the retirement of Rep. Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoVan Drew wins GOP primary in New Jersey Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew Stimulus price tag of .2T falls way short, some experts say MORE (R), who had held the seat in New Jersey's 2nd District for more than two decades.

The district, which President Trump won in 2016 by under 5 points, is rated as "Lean Republican" by nonpartisan prognosticator The Cook Political Report.

In her victory speech, Kennedy went after Van Drew and President Trump.

"People here in South Jersey are ready for change,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had enough of you and Donald Trump.”

"Since he became a Republican, he has chosen time and time again to serve Donald Trump instead of serving his community," she added, talking about Van Drew. "He has spent more time raising money for Trump's reelection campaign than he has doing anything for the people he was elected to represent. He has co-signed on to Trump's hateful, divisive, racist brand of politics."

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Kennedy, the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), announced her bid for the seat in January, calling Trump and Van Drew “symptoms of a bigger sickness infecting our country and our politics” in a campaign video. 

The race divided New Jersey's Democrats, with Kennedy endorsed by Gov. Phil Murphy. However, Harrison was backed by Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerUSAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill MORE and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE, and prominently for her district, she was also backed by South Jersey political power broker George Norcross. 

“Activists and voters in South Jersey just knocked the most powerful and reactionary political machine in America flat on its back, and New Jersey will never be the same,” Sue Altman, New Jersey Working Families State Director, said of Kennedy’s win.

The fundraising battle also heated up between the candidates. Harrison raised $415,000 for her campaign, contributing $160,000 of her own money to the sum. Meanwhile, Kennedy raised $1.4 million and self-funded $500,000 of it. Both candidates have received support from outside groups.

Harrison conceded the race and urged her supporters to fall in line behind Kennedy, saying they could help in the fight to unseat Van Drew.

"South Jersey stands united that Jeff Van DrewJeff Van DrewGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' Sunday shows preview: White House, Democratic leaders struggle for deal on coronavirus bill Democrats look to go on offense in debate over reopening schools MORE must go," she said. "And as Democrats, we now stand committed to putting the recent past behind us and unite together to beat him in November. And that, my friends, begins right now. I want to congratulate Amy and the Kennedy family for winning the Democratic Primary and becoming our nominee for the 2nd District of New Jersey."

Kennedy will likely face a heated contest against Van Drew in the conservative-leaning district. Van Drew, who has been involved in Garden State politics since the 1990s, has already brought in $2.5 million and had $1.1 million left in the bank as of June 17.

-- Abigail Mihaly contributed