Biden record, abortion rights at center of CD2 battle

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The two candidates vying to represent the 2nd Congressional District are happy to present voters with starkly different world views and priorities in the November general election.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, is running for his third term in office after making national news as a freshman when he changed parties from Democrat to Republican.

The 69-year-old retired dentist and former state legislator won the June 7 primary with 86% of the GOP vote districtwide — and 91% of the vote in Atlantic County — against two opponents.

Van Drew faces Galloway Township’s Tim Alexander, a civil rights attorney and former law enforcement officer who won with 62% of the Democratic vote districtwide against Sea Isle City engineer Carolyn Rush. Alexander, 56, has not previously held public office.

Alexander has said he was the victim of police brutality and falsely accused of a crime when he was young and living in North Jersey. He was cleared, but the experience left him determined to change policing for the better from within, he has said.

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He is a former detective captain in charge of the Criminal Investigation Section for the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in Mays Landing.

Both candidates are in decades-long marriages. Van Drew has two adult children and two grandchildren, and Alexander has three adult children.

“What I see is that we have totally different visions for the future of America and for the future of New Jersey,” Van Drew said in the days following the primary election. “Tim in general has been supportive of the policies of President Biden and the policies of Governor (Phil) Murphy. I generally am not.”

Alexander — who calls himself a moderate, not a progressive — said his top three issues are reproductive rights for women, the economy and better safeguards for access to guns. He wouldn’t support raising taxes on an overly taxed New Jersey, he said.

“The first one for me is body autonomy for women and codifying Roe,” Alexander said Friday about passing a federal law guaranteeing women the right to abortion. “The potential overruling of Roe is the greatest governmental overreach. I don’t know any other aspect of the law that does that for men (prevents them from having a medical procedure).”

Van Drew, who considered himself pro-choice in the past when he was a Democrat, now considers himself pro-life, he has said. He prefers to see states make their own laws regarding abortion.

New Jersey has passed legislation (A6260/S49), and the governor signed it into law, that guarantees women the right to decide when and whether to bear children, and to access contraception, abortion and other reproductive health care for completing a pregnancy.

Republicans say they want limited government, Alexander said, yet many are happy to have the government tell women what they can and cannot do in regards to pregnancy.

“I think it was Ronald Reagan who said, ‘The most terrifying words in English are, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

At a minimum, Alexander said, the basic rights from the Roe v. Wade decision need to be protected in federal law.

“We are not going to be able to do that if we lose control of the House.”

Alexander added it would be important to gain in the Senate to be able to overcome the filibuster. That would require gaining about 10 seats in the Senate.

Taxes, inflation

Alexander said he also wants to see new approaches to helping people deal with runaway inflation, particularly regarding gas prices.

He said he’d like to explore ways to help people afford purchasing hybrid or electric cars, which he considers unaffordable now for many people.

Whatever is done, it cannot increase taxes for New Jerseyans, Alexander said.

“We’re crushed here,” Alexander said. “Whatever I would propose, I’d find somewhere to offset. We don’t have to increase tax revenue. We don’t have the capacity for it anymore.”

Van Drew, on the other hand, is focused on undoing many of the changes made by the Biden Administration and the Democratic majority in Congress in recent years.

“This is a real race in my mind about: Are we going to get inflation under control? Are we going to get a real supply chain that works? A better system to ensure those that commit violent crimes and have long rap sheets stay in jail? Are we going to say ‘Don’t woke-ify our military?’” Van Drew said. “Are we going to close our border, put up a wall and keep safe, good immigration policy? Are we going to have formula on the shelves? Will we exit countries, not in a backwards, half-assed way (as in Afghanistan)?”

Democrats in the House and the president have diminished the country “in ways nobody could ever have imagined,” Van Drew said. “To me, that’s what Tim represents. He’s carrying that water.”

Van Drew also quoted Reagan.

“I believe in a very strong America. I believe in American exceptionalism … that we need to be No. 1 in the world in education, in the military,” Van Drew said. “As Ronald Reagan said, ‘No country is ever attacked because it’s too strong.’”

Van Drew predicted a Republican victory in the November elections, which are the “mid-terms,” or the congressional elections halfway through Biden’s first term as president.

The president’s party historically does not do well in mid-terms.

“When we take over in January, we will make this a place that belongs to the people,” Van Drew said of the U.S. Capitol.

After the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered metal detectors to be installed that all members must pass through to access the House floor, Van Drew said.

“There are still places I believe are vulnerable,” Van Drew said. “Yet to go onto the floor of the House of Representatives, we have to go through a metal detector and get patted down. It’s an insult to Congress, and that will be changed immediately.”

Contact: Michelle Brunetti Post