Kelly enters race for Congress

Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly today officially entered the race for U.S. Congress, and presented himself as a pro-life, tough on terror, fiscal conservative who would serve the entire 3rd district.

A six-term freeholder running in the half of the 3rd district that has never had a congressman, Kelly said the press would continue to depict the GOP primary war he plans to wage against Medford Mayor Chris Myers as a county versus county showdown. He noted that he intends to open campaign headquarters in both Ocean and Burlington, the district's two biggest counties.

Buthe also acknowledged that Ocean is his base, and said he’s the only candidate in the contest who’s represented an entire county for 16 years, compared toLockheed Martin exec.Myers, whohas been on the Medford Council since2001.

"I have been working extremely hard, since announcing my intentions to run, on putting the mechanism in place and securing the necessary funds to see that Ocean County elects its own candidate to send to the United states House of Representatives," said Kelly, appearing in a roomful of Ocean County officials in the Toms River law office of Party Chairman George Gilmore.

To a collective of 18 Ocean County officials, including State Senators Andy Ciesla, Chris Connors and Bob Singer, the candidate burnished the additional endorsement of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, whose 4th district contains a slightly larger portion of Ocean than Burlington. Smith’s endorsement served as a counterweight to Kelly’s rival Myers, who last week announced his own candidacy and picked up the endorsement of retiring 3rd district U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton.

"Jack Kelly is an extraordinary county lawmaker," Smith told the roomful of reporters and officials by telephone. "Jack and I have worked closely together on homeland security issues and the successful efforts to save and enhance Navy Lakehurst. He is a proven leader who will put his experience, effectiveness and integrity to work in Washington for the people of New Jersey."

Fellow Freeholder James F. Lacy said Kelly knows what it takes to cut a budget and end up with a surplus – something Kelly’s done for 15 years, Lacy said.

"Good luck, pal," he told his colleague.

Newly retired state Sen. Leonard Connors, who serves as campaign chair, also touted Kelly’s fiscal record.

"For a long time, the country has been leaning more and more toward socialistic ideas," said Connors. "I know Jack doesn’t agree with that. He believes in a strong military."

The district contains the Navy Lakehurst/Fort Dix McGuire complex, which occupies 42,000 acres and straddles both Ocean and Burlington.

Kelly said with the information supplied to Congress leading up to the Iraq War resolution vote in 2002, he would have voted yes, just like Saxton.

"We took the war to them," said Kelly, who stressed that the world is too dangerous and too volatile to remain on defense in what is a "worldwide jihad."

Asked if he would examine diplomatic measures to complement military action, Kelly said, "There is no diplomacy with terrorists who have nothing in their hearts but to destroy the United States."

The Burlington County Republican Party plans to screen prospective candidates this Saturday, and then present its endorsed candidate on the following Monday, Jan. 21st. Among those screening are establishment favorite Myers, former Tabernacle Committeeman Justin Murphy, and Kelly.

"I’m very well aware the committee will endorse Chris Myers," said Kelly, who said he would attend the screening anyway as a courtesy, just as Myers attended Ocean County’s GOP screening late last year. "I believe I will win in June and he believes he will win in June," Kelly added. "One of us will win."

The party’s nominee will likely face Democratic Sen. John Adler in the November general election.

Adler issued the following statement in response to Kelly's press conference today: "I decided to run for Congress because I believe, like so many people in south Jersey, that our country is headed in the wrong direction. I am tired of President Bush's stubborn support of the war in Iraq and the Republicans in Congress who have failed to hold him accountable for his failures. I will fight to bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq, fight for affordable health care, and better paying jobs, and unlike so many in Washington, I will always put the families in New Jersey ahead of special interest groups." Kelly enters race for Congress