By MADDY VITALE
Newly minted Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew opened up at the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday about why he switched parties, voted against the impeachment of President Trump and wants South Jersey residents to know he is on their side.
“There are good Republicans and bad Republicans. We are all in this together,” Van Drew said of changing parties as he addressed more than 100 business leaders and officials at the monthly Chamber meeting. “This is why I made the decision I did.”
Van Drew, formerly a Democrat, told the crowd at the Flanders Hotel that when he was asked to speak at the meeting, he thought hard about whether he should address the issues of parties and impeachment.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview that Van Drew has always been “a good friend of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and Ocean City.”
Among issues Van Drew has helped with are sick leave and new minimum wage requirements and small business owner issues, Gillian said.
“He understands the issues of the small businesses and how they are important for a strong community.”
Van Drew said he had to make his view and reasoning clear.
“I didn’t vote for the impeachment,” Van Drew said. “I thought it would get us further down the rabbit hole. I thought it would split us even more … that it would make people angrier rather than bring us together.”
President Trump will be arriving in Wildwood on Jan. 28 for a rally to support Van Drew, a former state assemblyman and senator who will be seeking the Republican nomination for Congress.
The push by the Democratic Party for impeachment of the president was something that sent him over the political line, Van Drew noted.
“A congressman is supposed to bring people together and in no way did I see this,” he said of voting to impeach the president.
He said how a person votes in the 2020 election could change the political tide.
“America is a great place. This is a flashpoint — compassionate capitalists or the socialists route,” he said of the political climate.
Van Drew said that when he changed parties he met with the president and they spoke for 90 minutes.
He said they had a good talk and pledged that he completely supports the president.
The congressman also told the president about what he has seen in Trenton and now in Washington, D.C.
“I said South Jersey gets the short end of the stick,” he said.
He explained that he felt compelled to switch parties because of what was going on in the Democratic Party.
“A change has occurred. To some people, the change may be good. As time went on and I was in Congress, I said Nancy Pelosi’s time is up (as speaker of the House). I voted no. I said I would not vote for her,” Van Drew explained.
After voting against Pelosi and hearing Democrats speak about impeaching the president, he decided to change parties.
Impeachment, he said, hurts the country, makes the United States look bad to the rest of the world and that the crime must be egregious to rise to the level of impeachment.
“The founders were so afraid of impeachment,” he said, adding that it causes a diminishment of the country.
“We have hurt our vision around the world and hurt the president. None of this is good,” Van Drew said.