STONE HARBOR — One New Jersey congressman facing sustained attacks for having accepted campaign contributions from Donald Trump is firing back. Longtime U.S. Representative Frank LoBiondo’s Democratic opponent Dave Cole has called on Atlantic County Republicans to disavow Trump because of his various bankruptcies and feuds with contractors in Atlantic City, the region’s commercial capital.
LoBiondo, whose district encompasses the city, believes Trump’s record of support for Democratic candidates is its own counterargument.
At a Thursday chamber of commerce lunch, the congressman expressed doubt that voters will turn away from him because of campaign contributions from a time before Trump showed any interest in holding elected office. Trump’s presidential opponent Hillary Clinton has gone after Trump for his checkered business record in the resort town, and Cole is hoping to ride that momentum.
“I’ve been very proud to represent the casinos and employees of those casinos in Atlantic City,” Lobiondo said. “And for something that happened in the 1990s, I think it’s very curious that this is what he’s choosing to do. I’m not sure that’s what people are going to grab onto.”
According to Politifact, LoBiondo received 12 donations from the one-time casino magnate between 1996 and 2007. If Trump’s unlikely presidential nomination drives away centrist Republicans or depresses turnout, Cole’s longshot campaign could see more competitive margins than past challengers during LoBiondo’s 20-year tenure.
“While Trump was failing local businesses and workers, LoBiondo accepted more campaign contributions from Trump than anyone else currently running for Congress,” Cole wrote in one representative statement. “Where was LoBiondo when Trump defaulted on payments to vendors and local small businesses?”
Asked whether his campaign is bracing for unpredictable results down the ballot because of Trump and his history in the district, LoBiondo pointed to Clinton’s own unpopularity. A recent Gallup poll showed Trump and Clinton scoring high unfavorability ratings of 42% and 33% respectively.
“There’s always a concern. But with Hillary Clinton’s record, she could cause a down-ballot effect too,” he said. “She is not particularly qualified or trustworthy, as we’re seeing more and more every day.
“If you’re on the ballot you’ve got a concern. But i work hard to talk about my record, connect with my community, do the things that I’ve done over a number of years to show that my representation is separate from anything that’s going on with another race.”
Cole, he said, should look at his own party’s history with the real estate magnate. Trump made five donations to Clinton’s Senate campaign totalling $4,100 and two donations to her presidential bid in 2008 totalling $2,300, though those presidential donations were refunded the following year. Vice President Joe Biden accepted $1,000 from Trump during his time as a U.S. Senator.
“It’s interesting that Mr. Cole is choosing that line of campaigning. I don’t think I’ve heard where he’s called for Hillary Clinton to return her contributions from Donald Trump, or Joe Biden to return his contributions from Donald Trump.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of PolitickerNJ and Observer Media.