By Art Gallagher
Their most important order of business will be to endorse a primary candidate for the nomination to challenge Democrat Congressman Andy Kim in the 3rd District. The candidate they chose will appear on the June 2 primary ballot in the same column as President Donald J. Trump, the Party’s U.S. Senate candidate (likely Rik Mehta), Freeholder Joe Vicari and the local candidates for municipal offices throughout the Ocean portions of the district.
David Richter is the best candidate to take on Congressman Kim in the general election.
Before examining Richter’s strengths, we need to consider his strongest opponent, Kate Gibbs, who has won the endorsement of the Ocean GOP screening committee and several local office holders.
There are good reasons to support Kate Gibbs for the nomination. She’s a young woman in a Party that needs to diversify beyond nominating white men. She’s was a Freeholder in Burlington County and has the Burlington GOP’s endorsement in the primary. She’s a labor leader.
Unfortunately, Gibbs’ weaknesses far outweigh her strengths. At 34, Gibbs is young enough that her youthful indiscretions are still pertinent. She is too young to excuse her brushes with the law as a matter of bad judgement and not a character flaw —a question the Asbury Park Press raised after they broke the news of her arrests for shoplifting, marijuana possession, drinking on the beach in Sea Bright, as well as law suits against her for failure to pay rent. Her last brush with the law was only six years ago. Everyone deserves second changes, but a congressional nomination for a winnable seat in the House of Representatives when the majority is at stake is more than a second chance. Gibbs would serve herself and her Party by living well for the next decade and trying again in the 40’s.
The Burlington GOP, and their endorsement(s) of Gibbs, are deeply flawed. Presumably they did not know about Gibbs’ legal troubles when they nominated her for Freeholder in 2015, less than a year after her arrest in Sea Bright, and when they endorsed her for the congressional nomination last December. They should have vetted her and she should have disclosed.
Gibb’s 2018 defeat for reelection as Freeholder, to a candidate who announced he wouldn’t take office after his history of domestic violence was disclosed, is an indictment against the Burlington GOP and Gibbs. They did not have the wherewithal to defeat a candidate who quit. What good will they be against Congressman Kim?
Running successfully for congress as a challenger in a competitive district is a very demanding full time endeavor. Gibbs is still working at her full time job that keeps her out of the district most hours of the day. She does not have the wherewithal to devote to the demands of a congressional campaign.
Gibbs other glaring weakness is that her private life is too private. Family photos go a long way to helping voters identify with a candidate they don’t know. Gibbs hasn’t used any family photos in any of her campaign materials that I have seen. It is a glaring missing, that makes one wonder, given how she hid her legal issues from her family, her colleagues and the voters of Burlington County, what else is she hiding. This is not fair. Life isn’t fair. Politics isn’t fair.
If Kate Gibbs is the Republican nominee for Congress in CD-3, you can count of Congressman Kim’s team to exploit these weaknesses and perhaps expose others.
Richter has weaknesses too. But the weaknesses that the Gibbs campaign have attempted to exploit–that he was business partners with Joe Biden’s brother, that he shopped districts before settling on CD-3 after being pushed out of CD-2 by Congressman Jeff Van Drew’s Party switch, and that his construction company did work in Libya during the Gaddafi years– are not likely issues that the Kim campaign will be able to exploit in the fall. Kim would be crazy to run an ad criticizing Richter for doing business with Biden’s brother, especially now that it looks like the former VP will be the Democrat presidential nominee.
Richter’s known weaknesses could hurt him with traditional Republican primary voters. But as Toms River Mayor Mo Hill’s “off the line” primary victory last June proved, unpredictable voters will turnout in a primary if you skillfully ask them to.
Richter’s strengths: He has lived a life of accomplishment. His resume is a match for Kim’s. Money matters in political messaging and Richter has pledged to spend $1 million of his own. He is devoting all of his time and talent to the race. He has a beautiful family who is not shy about appearing in his campaign materials.
Richter has a lot of work to do introducing himself to the voters of the 3rd Congressional District. He needs to become known, liked and trusted if he is going to unseat Congressman Kim. President Trump’s coattails will be helpful, but not enough to carry the day on November 5.
David Richter has the talent and wherewithal to defeat Congressman Kim. The other candidates that Ocean GOP leaders have to choose from this evening are not the strongest choice.
The Ocean GOP is in the midst of a not so civil war between those loyal to Chairman Frank Holman and former Chairman George Gilmore, who stepped down last year after being convicted on federal tax and bank fraud charges. There is a perception that Gibbs is Holman’s candidate and that Richter is Gilmore’s. Those with votes in tonight’s convention should set aside their tribal loyalty to either Holman or Gilmore, if that is a consideration, and pick the candidate with the best chance of defeating Congressman Kim in November. As an associate member of the Holman team, without a vote, I think that candidate is David Richter.
In addition to being a blogger, Art Gallagher is a political consultant. He designed and executed the victorious Republican campaign in Toms River last year. Neither he, nor any of his companies, are working for David Richter for Congress.