Challenger for LoBiondo hard to come by

Although state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) still hasn’t formally decided whether to challenge Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor) in the Second Congressional District, most Democrats assume he’s not going to make a run for it.

And with fewer than three weeks remaining to file a petition, no candidates have put their names forward.

“I’m unaware of anyone that has surfaced, and I’m disappointed about that because I think now is as good a time as any to pose a really credible challenge to making the seat a Democratic seat,” said Atlantic County Democratic insider Damon Tyner, a former candidate for state Assembly.

Van Drew could not be reached for comment, but late last month downplayed the likelihood that he would enter the race.

With the presidential contest taking up much of the party’s fundraising resources, and with the DCCC unlikely to want to run two races in the expensive Philadelphia television market without a superstar candidate, many Democrats have basically conceded the district.

There may soon be an alternative for Democrats, however. Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Ron Ruff is courting an unnamed dark horse candidate from Cape May County – someone with the ability to at least partially self-fund a campaign. Ruff hopes to get the potential candidate to make a decision by the Atlantic County Democrats’ convention on March 30.

“The most I can say is that we’re optimistic that we’ve got a good candidate to run,” said Ruff.

Other names have surfaced before as potential candidates should Van Drew decide not to run: Atlantic County Freeholder Alisa Cooper, former pro basketball coach Pat Croce and former Republican Assemblyman Paul D’Amato, who switched parties two years ago. But none are likely to run.

Burlington County Democratic Chairman Rick Perr, whose county only makes up a tiny portion of the district, said that he hasn’t heard of any potential candidates either.

“Not a single Democrat has called me to give me any indication that they’re interested in running,” he said. “Obviously there are a number of qualified people, but I guess it’s not on anybody’s radar screen this year.”

The national Democrats, preoccupied with overtaking vulnerable Republican seats in the third and seventh districts, are not likely to put resources into the second district without a declared candidate.

Perr said that it was always better to have someone on the ticket, even if the race wouldn’t get the attention of the DCCC. He pointed to Cape May County attorney Bill Hughes, Jr., whose father held the congressional seat before LoBiondo, as a good potential candidate.

Hughes told PolitickerNJ in September that he would probably not run for the seat, though he wouldn’t rule out the possibility either. He could not be reached for comment today.

“It’s always great for parties to have someone on the ballot and not give anyone a free pass,” said Perr.

Challenger for LoBiondo hard to come by