Rep. Jeff Van Drew Leads Amy Kennedy in Heated House Race, But No Major Calls Made Early Wednesday Morning

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

Editor’s Note: This article was published at 2 a.m. on Wednesday. All information is accurate as of that time.

SOUTH JERSEY — Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2) and Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy’s hotly-contested race for the House seat in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District was not decided on Election Day. And as of Wednesday morning, there appears to be no end in sight for the short-term future.

As of 2 a.m. on Wednesday, 74.19% of the votes in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District had been counted, according to the Associated Press’ tally. Van Drew held a lead of slightly fewer than four percentage points (51.01-47.44), and the two candidates held totals of 141,202 and 131,336 votes, respectively. Van Drew and Kennedy’s House race was the only one that remained undecided as of 2 a.m. Wednesday.

The incumbent’s slight edge can perhaps be attributed to Kennedy under-performing in her native Atlantic County. She’s winning the county by a four-point (51.4-47.2) margin, but the challenger was expected to gain more votes in the area. Kennedy has a comfortable lead in Cumberland County by a margin of 62-36, but she’s losing every other part of the Second district — including all of Cape May County and parts of Camden, Ocean, Burlington, Salem, and Gloucester counties.

Despite the relatively close margin and the amount of unreported precincts, Van Drew declared victory in the election at approximately 10 p.m. during his campaign’s Election Night event. He delivered a brief victory speech to a crowd of his supporters at the Oar House bar in Sea Isle City despite the fact that no major media outlets called the race in his favor.

“This was a hard and brutal election. A lot of money and a lot of power was used against me, quite frankly, to remove me from my seat during a difficult year,” Van Drew said during his premature victory speech. “But the truth is, you believed. You believed in America, you believed in the America that we know, the America that we love, the America that we know is this great place where if anybody does something enough, they can reach for that brass ring and achieve greatness.”

At this point, Van Drew does hold the upper hand over Kennedy. However, his decision to declare victory that early in the evening is definitely puzzling — especially considering the fact that most major media outlets haven’t picked a projected winner approximately four hours after his victory speech. At best, he’ll be able to say “I told you so” if/when he comes out on top, but his victory speech will be looked back on as ill-fated and, quite frankly, embarrassing if Kennedy manages to make a comeback in the final 25.81% of votes.

Kennedy didn’t hold any sort of in-person campaign event because she is currently self-quarantining after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. She didn’t concede the race in response to Van Drew’s claim of victory at the Oar House bar. The challenger did, however, say on Facebook live that she will wait for the election’s full results before accepting victory or defeat.

Elsewhere in South Jersey, Democratic Reps. Donald Norcross (D-1) and Andy Kim (D-3) picked up expected reelection victories in the First and Third districts, respectively. Norcross won by a fairly significant 64.7-35.3 margin over Claire Gustafson, and Kim took down challenger David Richter by a 55-43.9 margin.

And as far as statewide news is concerned, New Jerseyans voted to legalize recreational marijuana by a near landslide margin (67-33). New Jersey was one of four states along with Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota to legalize recreational marijuana, which increases the United States’ total to 15 states that have fully legalized marijuana.

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