Republican Tricia Flanagan is trying to oust Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, and she wants Donald Trump’s help.
At an event for another candidate at Trump’s Bedminster golf club in June, she said she met briefly with the former president and sought his backing in what could be one of the state’s most competitive House races in 2022.
“I’m bold,” Flanagan said. “I said, ‘Mr. President, I need your help.’”
Flanagan is one of five prospective 2022 Republican congressional candidates from New Jersey who trekked to Bedminster this year after Trump decamped there from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that has filed several complaints against the former president.
Closely aligning with Trump could bring support and money from the Republican base. But it runs the risk of turning off independent and other voters who helped turn a 6-6 House delegation to a 10-2 Democratic advantage in just two elections. Trump lost New Jersey to Joe Biden, 57% to 41%, last November.
“This is the burning question right now for the Republican Party in the state: Does the blessing of former President Trump help or hurt a candidate in New Jersey?” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
“It’s a delicate dance and balance for any candidate. It helps them rally the party base. It doesn’t seem like it would bode well with the broader electorate.”
So far, many New Jersey congressional hopefuls aren’t staying away.
The list of visitors to Bedminster includes:
Nick D’Agostino, trying to take on Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist.;
Darius Mayfield, running against Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist.;
Flanagan said she met Trump while attending a June 29 event for Rep. Jody Hice, who has the former president’s backing in a Republican primary challenge against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The incumbent rejected the former president’s false charges of voter fraud in last fall’s presidential election.
Mayfield was there as well and also met Trump and discussed his congressional campaign with him, according to campaign spokeswoman Krissy Brahney.
“Darius shared with him that he’s been a vocal supporter from the beginning and thanked him for inspiring his run and interest in politics,” Brahney said.
A long time Trump aide, Lynne Patton, was the guest speaker at Mayfield’s campaign kickoff fundraiser and is seeking support for him from the pro-Trump Save America political action committee, Brahney said.
And Prempeh, who also was at Bedminster then, posted a picture on Instagram of him standing next to Trump.
“If you were to meet me in 2019 and told me that not only would I be running for office in 2022 but that I’d also meet the President of the United States. I wouldn’t believe you. Yet here we are,” he wrote next to the photo.
D’Agostino’s campaign said he attended a Bedminster fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo, who closely aligned himself with Trump but lost the Republican primary to former state Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli. He also met in Washington with Trump allies Ben Carson and Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.
Mehta posted on Instagram that he played golf at Bedminister. But he said it wasn’t with Trump.
He praised the former president.
“President Trump’s policies were working and if you deny that, then you’re just biased,” Mehta said. “It’s that simple.”
Prempeh did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, James Singer, said he welcomed Trump’s involvement.
“New Jersey Republicans are free to go to the moon to please President Trump if they choose to,” Singer said. “It won’t change the facts on the ground – Donald Trump lost the state by more than 15 points last November and then encouraged a mob to attack the Capitol.”
Trump hasn’t endorsed any of the New Jerseyans yet.
But Flanagan said she hoped he eventually would endorse her in a district that Trump carried by a slim margin in 2020 even while losing the state.
Toward that end, she has touted several issues near and dear to Trump’s heart, such as immigration, expanding gun rights, and allowing the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to regulate social media companies.
“I’m going to continue to ask for his support and more importantly I’m going to work to earn that endorsement,” she said. “Mr. President, we need you in New Jersey.”
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
Start your day with the latest from Trenton, D.C. and your town. Get the N.J. Politics newsletter now.
— to www.nj.com