Congressional District 7 Democratic Candidate Peter Jacob has made no secret of his support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidential election. However, due to a petition issue that kicked his fellow Democratic competitor Chris Faraone out of the race, Jacob’s name will now appear under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in all CD7 counties during the June 7 primary.
CD7 spans six counties: Warren, Morris, Hunterdon, Union, Somerset and Essex. Initially, Jacob was able to snag the line in Hunterdon and Morris. Clinton has gotten the county line throughout CD7. Faraone, as a Clinton supporter, was chosen by the majority of counties to appear under her name. But, because of the Faraone’s petition issue, counties that had selected him to run on the line were left without a candidate in the CD7 spot, something that prompted them to throw the support they had initially given to Faraone to Jacob.
According to Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair Peg Schaffer, the decision was a logical one after Faraone left the race. Schaffer said that, initially, there had been significant interest in Somerset for Jacob. Despite Jacob’s support for Sanders, the New Jersey Sanders campaign is not endorsing down-ballot candidates.
“Initially, it was a close call for us. We interviewed Peter and we interviewed Chris and it was a close call. Our screening committee was torn,” Schaffer said. “It turns out that we then had a vacancy on our line because Chris wasn’t eligible and Peter was out in no man’s land because he wasn’t on anybody’s line. I was initially under the impression that he was going to be on Sanders’ line but he wasn’t so we talked to him and said, ‘Since you were close to being our choice in the first instance, we are happy to start the unification process right now and get you on our line.’”
Schaffer also said that despite Jacob’s new bracketing position in Somerset, the candidate will not be actively supporting Clinton.
“He may not be pushing for Hillary but he is certainly not going to be out pushing for Sanders,” Schaffer said. “He understands that he is on Hillary’s line and he has consented to being bracketing with her. In our view he is part of the team and he should hopefully get elected along with Hillary.”
According to Jacob, alignment with a presidential candidate is not his focus.
“It is not so much about who is above me, it is about who is below me,” Jacob said. “The freeholder candidates and city council candidates, I am here to support them.”
Jacob also said that because he feels “all politics is local” the most important thing is to do a good job to create party unity at the local level and push for issues that impact CD7’s residents rather than focus on presidential politics.
“When we were in Hunterdon County, when we won the line there, even though I said I was a Bernie Sanders supporter and Hillary Clinton still got the line, the people saw that I was somebody who could unify and build the party in a place like Hunterdon County that is very red,” Jacob said. “We talked about the issues that matter to people and I think that is what people see. People see not so much the labels but they see the values and the issues that are important.”
While both Schaffer and Jacob acknowledge that the candidate’s Sanders support was the initial sticking point to his candidacy in Somerset County, Jacob said he is happy to be on the line.
“I do want to express my appreciation for the Somerset County Democrats for the opportunity to run with them,” Jacob said. “They were kind enough to screen me initially and what they had mentioned was that they really liked me as a candidate. The only thing they had hesitation about was that I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. I think everyone saw I was someone that could work with anyone.”
The CD7 congressional seat is currently occupied by Republican Leonard Lance. The district tends to lean Republican.
Ballot positions will be drawn today, April 15.