New Jersey’s second congressional district is one of four Republican-held seats in the state that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted in the 2018 midterm elections. Its been held for decades by Republican Frank LoBiondo. He’s announced his retirement and now Democratic State Sen. Jeff Van Drew has announced he’s in the running. Senior Correspondent David Cruz sat down with the candidate.
Cruz: Here’s some things that people have said about you, or will say about you: “He is too close to George Norcross” and “He is a Democrat in name only. He voted against same sex marriage and against stricter gun controls.” Is that fair?
Van Drew: It’s fair for people to say whatever they want to and I certainly respect that and that’s part of the process. I work very hard. I believe that it shows in my district that I’ve had Republicans and Democrats support me. I’ve always believed that the most important issue is to be loyal and work hard for your country and that’s what’s most important overriding anything else. It is important to work for your country and not always for your political party. So, I’m a Democrat, but if I really, truly believe there’s a good Republican idea I would vote for it and support it. There are many, many issues that I voted for, I’ve certainly voted for supporting stem cell research. I voted for medical marijuana. I voted for women’s health care. I have voted for veterans issues to give them more access and more help in veteran’s courts so that they would be taken care of.
Cruz: So you’d say you’re a moderate Democrat?
Van Drew: Sure, that votes for what’s right. I mean, nobody should be, ‘Gee, I’m only going to vote this way because that’s what I’m told’ and ‘I only vote on this issue because that’s what a certain type of Democrat does or another type of Democrat does.’ Do what your constituents need. Stand up and fight and represent and advocate for your constituents. Do that job. That’s what that’s about. And what I do is I represent South Jersey. I fight for South Jersey. I stand up for South Jersey. When I save 1,500 jobs at the Vineland Developmental Center, that mattered and that wasn’t a Democratic or Republican issue.
Cruz: One of the other things that is said about you is that you’re hesitant to criticize Donald Trump. This is a district where he won the election. Do you feel that’s a fair criticism?
Van Drew: I don’t think that’s fair. I think we need more common sense in Washington. I think we need more civility in Washington.
Cruz: Some would argue that the president is really the source…
Van Drew: Sure, I could understand it. I think it’s been all over, actually. I think we need hard work, civility and just common sense.
Cruz: But I don’t hear you criticizing him right now.
Van Drew: I think he’s incorrect on an issue, for example, on the tax cut issue. I am very supportive of tax cuts. I believe that middle class people need to have more money in their pocket. We are taxed, tolled, fed and charged to death in New Jersey. But, I don’t believe this tax cut, this GOP tax cut, works real well for New Jerseyans, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats. So, I don’t support the Trump tax cut as it is currently constituted. I think it needs to be changed. So I have been, that’s actually not accurate. I don’t want to get into the melee. I’ve said I don’t enjoy the tweeting, but I’m not going to start tweeting back and forth because you know what, I have a job to do and that’s to take care and represent my people.
Cruz: All right, I have about 30 seconds. You’ve talked a lot about building consensus. Do you really think you can go down there and build consensus in this climate?
Van Drew: I think one individual can start to make some change. One individual can really accomplish amazing goals. Do I believe I can do it by myself? No, I’m realistic. But do I believe I can be the beginning, the spearhead, to actually try to make some change? Or else we’re hopeless. If we just say nobody can do anything then we’re always going to have a lack of working together, the lack of bipartisanship, the lack of civility, the lack of hard work, the lack of common sense. I don’t believe in that. I believe we can do better. America is the greatest country in the world and we have the potential to do better and we must do better and part of that is more civility.
Cruz: All right, Sen. Jeff Van Drew, thanks very much and we’ll see you out there.
Van Drew: Thank you.