Party-flipper Van Drew beats political newcomer Kennedy in close South Jersey race

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew will hold onto his seat in New Jersey’s southernmost congressional district after beating Democrat Amy Kennedy.

The Associated Press called the race for the now-Republican Van Drew on Friday, after the race remained too close to call for days despite ongoing ballot-counting.

“I would like to thank President Trump as well as all of the Republican, Democrat, and independent voters who stood with me and continued to place their trust in me to fight for them and all of South Jersey in Washington,” he said in a statement. “The United States of America is an exceptional nation, and I will continue to work with anyone willing to put party aside to fight for a strong America and a strong South Jersey.”

Van Drew was the incumbent, though he first won the seat in 2018 as a Democrat.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

After being just one of two House Democrats nationwide to vote against impeaching President Donald Trump, Van Drew switched parties and became a Republican, pledging his “undying support” to the president during an Oval Office press conference.

Throughout the campaign, Kennedy — the wife of former Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy — repeatedly hit Van Drew for his party switch, accusing him of betraying his constituents for political gain.

But in the end, Van Drew managed to maintain his support in the 2nd District, which voted for Barack Obama twice before switching back to the GOP and Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

The largely rural district that stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the Jersey Shore is considered a bellwether.

One public poll before the election showed Van Drew trailing, though it was within the margin of error, while another put the two candidates in a dead heat.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal