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Rep. Jeff Van Drew's Vote Against Impeachment Inquiry Appears Popular In His District


When the House voted last week to formalize the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, just two Democrats voted no. One was New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew, a moderate elected in the 2018 blue wave. But with impeachment looming, the anti-Trump fervor that helped Van Drew get into office is now threatening to cost him another two years in office. Joe Hernandez from member station WHYY reports.

JOE HERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Spend some time in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District, and you'll hear a lot of opinions like this about Democratic Representative Jeff Van Drew. Gil McGregor is a resident of Millville.

GIL MCGREGOR: I think he's good. I think he works for the people. I've tried to call down there; they help, and that's all you can ask from a politician today.

HERNANDEZ: You'll also hear a lot of this about House Democrats' hopes to impeach President Trump.

MCGREGOR: I think that's crazy talk. What they're doing is nuts. They go from Russia to this stuff.

HERNANDEZ: It might seem strange in 2019 to find support for a Democratic congressman and support for President Trump in the same place, but that is the 2nd District - a sprawling area of southern New Jersey that stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the Jersey Shore.

JOHN FROONJIAN: I moved down here from north Jersey when I went to college, and my family thought I had moved to a different state. They just said, why did you move to the sticks?

HERNANDEZ: John Froonjian runs the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. He says the largely rural district tends to have older voters who are more conservative, even if they're Democrats. The district voted for Barack Obama twice before backing President Trump in the 2016 election. A recent poll conducted by Froonjian found that a majority of New Jerseyans support the impeachment inquiry, but more voters in key parts of Van Drew's district oppose it.

FROONJIAN: So he's looking now at this impeachment inquiry and knows that his district is not real gung-ho on impeaching President Trump.

HERNANDEZ: Van Drew has always been a conservative Democrat. When he was in the state Legislature, he voted against issues like gun control and same sex marriage. So it was little surprise when Van Drew said he opposed launching the impeachment inquiry because it would divide the country further and because he suspected the Senate would not convict the president.


JEFF VAN DREW: So we will have all this time, all this money, all this energy, all this effort, a failed impeachment, the same president and the same presidential candidate.

HERNANDEZ: Van Drew added that he would decide whether to vote for articles of impeachment against President Trump once he hears the evidence. Still, his opposition to a measure supported by almost all Democrats could cause problems in his swing district. Van Drew is likely to face a primary challenge from the left, and he will probably draw a stronger, better-funded Republican challenger than the one he had in 2018, who'd been disavowed by GOP leaders for making racist statements.

Betty Stackhouse is a Republican and lives in Goshen, part of Van Drew's district.

BETTY STACKHOUSE: The Democrats lost my respect, except for him, because he actually is a nice person (laughter) and is for the people.

HERNANDEZ: Stackhouse was thrilled when Van Drew voted against impeachment and says she thinks he does a great job as congressman. But her distaste for Democrats is stronger than her support for Van Drew, and Stackhouse says she plans to vote for his Republican opponent next year, whoever it is.

STACKHOUSE: He's a great guy. I think he is. I just wish he was Republican.

HERNANDEZ: Van Drew was the state senator for a decade before being elected to Congress last year. On Tuesday, in New Jersey's statewide legislative election, Republicans won the seat back for the first time in a decade.

For NPR News, I'm Joe Hernandez.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNDERWORLD'S "SECOND HAND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joe Hernandez