Those handicapping congressional contests in the upcoming midterm elections have their eyes on a South Jersey district, which has been a Republican stronghold for decades. The race to replace retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo pits Republican attorney Seth Grossman against Democratic state senator Jeff Van Drew.
Last month NJTV News’ chief political correspondent interviewed Grossman. Tonight, Van Drew joins Michael Aron.
Aron: Sen. Van Drew, thank you for coming up from Cape May County.
Van Drew: It’s great to be here.
Aron: You’re running for Congress. What would you say is the top issue in the congressional race?
Van Drew: Believe it or not, I think at least one of the very top issues is behavior, and I know that sounds odd, but look at our congresspeople today and Republicans and Democrats not speaking with each other, perpetually arguing with each other. We don’t see that cooperation that we should see, and I think that one of the biggest issues is that we want to have congresspeople who we can be proud of, who are going to be productive, who are going to get things done, who are going to cross the line. You know, it is more important to be loyal to your nation than your political party, so I think that is one of the first, overriding, big issues.
Aron: Where do you stand on Donald Trump?
Van Drew: So, where I stand on Donald Trump is this: certainly has a different style than I do. You’ve known me for a good number of years, and I have a much more gentle — I’ll say it that way — style. I don’t necessarily, you know, think that all the Twitter is necessary or appropriate. However, the way that I stand is this: if Donald Trump is right about an issue that is going to affect my people in my district or in my state or in the United States of America, I will say he’s right. When he’s wrong, I’ll stand up strong and say he’s wrong. I’m not always going to disagree with him because he’s in the other party or because he has a different style, and I’m certainly not always going to agree with him. It’s a matter of the individual issues.
Aron: The 2nd Congressional District is fairly rural, correct?
Van Drew: It’s fairly rural but does have urban spots.
Aron: So, is the president popular in the 2nd Congressional District?
Van Drew: In some spots he is, for sure.
Aron: What are his numbers? Do you know his numbers?
Van Drew: I don’t know that I’ve seen his most recent numbers, but he’s usually at around 50 [percent], I guess, in the congressional district, but that’s not even what’s so important. It’s really important how his actions — and I’ll give you an example — can affect what we’re doing in the 2nd Congressional District. So, he had recently said that he believed in offshore drilling for oil, that you would actually have oil rigs right off the coast of Atlantic City, Cape May, that entire area, Monmouth County, et cetera. That’s wrong. That’s bad for us. That’s not going to be good. God forbid there’s an oil spill, we’re going to have a problem, a pollution issue, it’s not good environmentally. I stand strong and say I disagree with that. I’m going to fight that as hard as I could. He has also spoken, though, on the other hand, about how many people don’t get the service they should in VA hospitals, and we need to have more local care. And when somebody can’t access care in the VA, and it’s too far away, that we need to allow them to use a local doctor. I agree with him on that. He’s right on that issue, so as some people may like his personality, don’t like his personality, and of course he has a whole host of legal issues now, I’m there to get a job done and to serve the people of this district, and that’s what I am going to do.
Aron: Your Republican opponent is Seth Grossman. I think he was an Atlantic City councilman for a while. I think he was a talk radio guy for a while. He has said that if he gets elected, he would vote in the House of Representatives to shield Donald Trump from impeachment. Would you — would you vote to impeach Donald Trump, if it came to that?
Van Drew: Well, that’s a question you have to have all the answers, and before you can ever make that decision. If Donald Trump was — or any president — was guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, and all a number of serious issues, then you have to look at that. But, I’m certainly not going there in my mind thinking, “Gee, I want to impeach Donald Trump. That’s what my job is.” It is not. My job is to serve the nation and the people of the state of New Jersey, and so we have to allow the Mueller investigation to go to its final fruition, to get to the ultimate point where all the answers are there, and then people will make their decisions on what they’re going to do. But, I am not one — you know, there are some folks that are saying, “Well, you job is just to go there and impeach somebody.” It is not. That creates a great deal of discord and a lot of problems in the country as well. That is something that should be used very sparingly and very carefully and only when appropriate.
Aron: Grossman has gotten into trouble over some of the things he has said, regarding race. He published an op-ed this weekend saying, “Why am I being called a bigot?” Is he a bigot?
Van Drew: I can’t answer that — what’s in people’s hearts, and in their minds, and in their souls. I can only say that some of the information that he put out, the information that said diversity is a lot of — and I even hate to repeat it — diversity is a lot of crap and un-American. Or, when he said Kwanzaa was a made-up holiday by socialists and communists, I think. Again, I find that distasteful. It’s certainly a benign enough and fun enough holiday. It doesn’t hurt anybody. Or, the most recent information that was out from a white supremacist organization, where there actually was a swastika and said horrendous things about African-Americans.
Aron: Two more questions in one minute. You have said that you would not vote for Nancy Pelosi to be the speaker.
Van Drew: That is correct. I will not.
Van Drew: Because I think we need new leadership. Nothing against her personally. It’s just times you need new energy, new ideas, a jump start to, not only the Democratic Party, but to the way that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party deal with each other.
Aron: And, finally. Frank LoBiondo is quitting this Congress after 24 years. You’ve been projected as a possible candidate for that seat for years. Now that he’s stepped aside, is it finally your time?
Van Drew: I believe that it is. And the people — you know, I don’t want to be arrogant — so, the people are going to be the ones that are going to make that decision, but I believe that it is and as I’ve said when I won my primary, I am going to work my hardest. I am going to do my best. I want to be a very, very good congressman. and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
Aron: Sen. Jeff Van Drew, thanks for coming in.
Van Drew: Thank you for having me.