Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew defeated Democratic rival Amy Kennedy and won a second term in his southern New Jersey district.
Van Drew gained national attention when he left the Democratic Party late last year because he opposed impeaching President Donald Trump. He pledged his “undying support” to the president in the Oval Office. He also hosted a rally for Trump in Wildwood in January, before the COVID-19 outbreak struck.
Kennedy, the spouse of former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy of the storied Massachusetts political family, won a contentious primary in July.
She focused much of her campaign on protecting the health care protection under the Affordable Care Act and cast Van Drew as a self-interested ally of the president.
She and Democratic-allied groups flooded the Philadelphia airwaves with ads criticizing Van Drew for switching parties to preserve his own political chances.
Van Drew is well known in the 2nd District, which includes all or part of eight counties in the southern third of the state, including the resort towns of Atlantic and Ocean cities.
He pitched himself as a champion for the district, which went for Trump in 2016. He’s also a former long-time state lawmaker and mayor of Dennis Township in the sprawling 2nd District.
Kennedy, whose family has deep roots in Atlantic County, had never run for office before, but her candidacy got a big boost when Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy backed her in the primary.
Despite the GOP victory in the district, Democrats had a mostly favorable night in New Jersey, with all other Democratic incumbents being declared winners. The only other Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Smith, defeated his Democratic challenger on Tuesday.
Tallying votes carried on through Friday. This year’s election was New Jersey’s first-ever mostly mail-in election. Murphy ordered all active registered voters get mail-in ballots in August.
More than 4 million people voted in the election, according to the governor, setting a record for the most number of votes cast in an election.