Longport resident Brigid Callahan Harrison has declared she will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. House of Representatives in the 2020 General Election.
Harrison, a political science and law professor at Montclair State University, announced she was considering a primary challenge against Rep. Jeff Van Drew after he declared he would not vote with fellow Democrats to impeach President Donald J. Trump.
Harrison said Van Drew’s refusal to support impeachment angered many of the Democrats in the heavily Republican 2nd Legislative District. Van Drew, a dentist and career politician who has served at all levels of local government, won election as a Democrat in 2018, flipping the House seat held by former Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a seat he held for 24 years.
Harrison, 54, said she was heartened by the response from constituents when she announced she was considering a primary challenge.
“I was heartened by the response from old friends throughout the district,” she said in a telephone interview weeks ago.
She made her candidacy official on Monday, Dec. 16.
“Those of us across South Jersey deserve a true leader who is not afraid to ask questions, engage the community, demand the truth, and who will always put the needs of the district and its people before self-interest,” Harrison said.
She said Van Drew’s announcement that he would not vote to impeach Trump demonstrates he does not support Democrat constituents in the district.
“He has repeatedly ignored the voices of our community and has instead sold his soul, cutting backroom deals with the White House,” she said in the statement.
Harrison took weeks to consider her candidacy based on Van Drew’s vote.
“He has dug in his heels, befriended the president and has alienated part of his constituency,” she said.
“Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the last thing the people of the 2nd Congressional District need or want is to elect a blind pawn for Donald Trump.”
Harrison was the recipient of the Hughes Center for Public Policy’s Distinctive Alumni Leadership Award in November 2017. She was honored along with her friend and mentor William J. Hughes, for whom the center is named. Hughes was a longtime Democrat Representative and Ambassador to Panama.
“It’s important for everyone to encourage bipartisanship in politics and recognize politicians who work for good causes in a bipartisan way,” she said at that time.
Harrison is a 1988 graduate of Stockton University, obtained a master’s degree from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. from Temple University in Philadelphia. She is a member of the Stockton University Foundation Board of Directors. She has taught at Montclair since 1994 and began writing political commentary in 2005 and has provided political commentary during election night TV coverage.
Considered an expert in her field, Harrison is the author of four books on American democracy and women in politics, including a political science textbook used in universities across the country.
She is married to Paul Meilak, a retired New York City Police Department detective, and has three children – two teens and a 25-year-old – from her marriage to Ken Harrison, an economics professor who died in 2010. One of her children is a cadet in the U.S. Naval Academy.
She said South Jersey needs a representative who will do what’s right for the district.
“The people deserve an independent minded representative who is willing to fight for a stronger health care system, strategic investments in infrastructure, and getting corporate special interest money out of our politics,” she said.