Democratic Challenger to Leonard Lance Holds Somerville Fundraiser

Peter Jacob, who wants to oust Congressman Leonard Lance, addresses the crowd during a fundraiser in Somerville.

Peter Jacob, who wants to oust Congressman Leonard Lance, addresses the crowd during a fundraiser in Somerville.

One of New Jersey’s more conservative congressman is facing a Democratic challenge in this year’s elections, and his young opponent is honing his ground game. Political newcomer Peter Jacob, of Union, is running against Republican U.S. Representative Leonard Lance in the state’s seventh congressional district and held a fundraiser in Somerville Tuesday night where he laid out his vision for North-Central Jersey.

Jacob.

Jacob.

So far Jacob, 30, is dispensing with attacks on Lance, a centrist Republican who has tacked further right over the years to keep his longtime primary opponent David Larsen at bay. Larsen’s far-right criticisms of Lance on gay rights issues and tax policy led to a solid but unsuccessful showing in 2014, but he fell far short of besting the incumbent during this year’s primary.

Jacob’s campaign is opting for a less aggressive approach, staying positive rather than opposing Lance outright. At this week’s well-attended fundraiser, he emphasized maintaining federal social services and minimizing the financial impact of healthcare for New Jersey residents.

“If you care about America, you care that our seniors end up choosing between paying for food and life-saving medication,” Jacob said during his remarks. “If you care about America, you care that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. 

“If you care about America, you do not deny the reality of climate change and its impact on our communities.  If you care about America, you care about ending the corruption that has been legalized within our government through the tsunami of special interest money drowning out the voters’ voices.”

Jacob will have a tough row to hoe in the conservative seventh district, where Lance won his seat in 2009 against the tide of early Obama-era down-ticket victories for Democrats in Republican strongholds like Burlington County. A supporter of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary and a social worker by trade, his progressive views could be a tough sell in heavily Republican Morris, Warren, Somerset and Hunterdon Counties.

But Sean Smith, a Jacob supporter from Scotch Plains, is undaunted by those challenges.

“He is energetic and ready,” Smith said. “You can see the passion in his eyes, the genuine desire to help people, to put the people’s needs above his own.”

Though Jacob lacks the support from North Jersey’s most influential party bosses, the fundraiser saw strong turnout from area Democrats: Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson, Somerville Democratic Councilman Dennis Sullivan, Somerville Democratic Committee Chair Steve Peter, and Somerset County Sheriff Candidate Darrin Russo all attended the event.