By Art Gallagher
David Richter, the former CEO of Hill International, a global construction management firm, has had a tough start to 2020. Richter, of Princeton, was the front runner for the GOP nomination for Congress in the second district of New Jersey and was poised to end the political career of Congressman Jeff Van Drew.
The impeachment of President Donald J. Trump upended Richter’s self-funded path to Congress. In a deal brokered by former Governor Chris Christie, according to the NY Times, Van Drew became a Republican and pledged his undying support to the President. Trump, seeing a opportunity much larger than picking up one congressional seat in New Jersey, provided Van Drew with a first class political operation and cleared the path for the freshman congressman to win the GOP nomination for reelection.
Van Drew will likely be the face of the Trump campaign’s national effort to convert Democrats and center-left Independents to abandon the Democrat Party that has lunged too far left to be considered main stream.
Richter’s political consultants left him and the angry political neophyte spent much of January trashing Van Drew and Trump. On the eve of Trump’s rally in Wildwood, in a deal also brokered by Christie, according to NJGlobe, Richter changed his tune and his district. He fully embraced Van Drew, pledged his fealty to Trump and announced he would run for the GOP nomination to replace Andy Kim in New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district, which includes parts of Ocean and Burlington Counties.
But Trump did not clear the field for Richter in CD-3 where former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs is the front runner for the GOP nomination. Gibbs already has the Republican line in the primary in Burlington County and she has spent months building support and relationships in Ocean County. Gibbs announced that she’s not backing down for anybody and her friends and political supporters are rallying around her. State Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt and Ocean County Republican Chairman Frank Holman have declined to endorse either Gibbs or Richter.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick announced that he is going forward with a previously scheduled fund raiser for Gibbs.
Republican political operatives and bloggers throughout New Jersey have reflexively started oppo research into Richter and offered help to the Gibbs campaign.
This Republican operative/blogger’s conclusion is that Gibbs is a superior candidate to Richter in CD-3, regardless of Richter’s ability to self-fund. As the operative who most recently beat the Ocean County GOP machine in a competitive primary, it is my judgement that Gibbs could easily beat Richter on June 2 even in the unfortunate event that she does not win the line at the Ocean GOP convention.
If Richter loses to Gibbs in a primary, his dreams of becoming president or governor some day are finished. He’ll become just another rich white guy who couldn’t see beyond his own agenda and got beaten by a powerful woman.
If Richter wants a future in politics, his best bet this year is to run for congress in his home district against Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.
He probably won’t beat the incumbent in the heavily Democrat CD-12, but he can make Watson Coleman work for her seat. With only $147,000 cash in her campaign account, Watson Coleman is taking her reelection for granted.
Richter can make Watson Coleman work for it and prevent her, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, from raising money to wheel to other Democrat candidates in New Jersey and beyond. That would be an act of service that will generate good will and relationships that he will need if he runs for another office in the future.
In a fundraising email yesterday, Chairman Steinhardt said that President Trump told him that New Jersey is critical to winning back the House of Representatives this year. Richter’s best role in the effort to win back the House is to bring the fight to Bonnie Watson Coleman.