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June 13, 2024

Joseph Salerno wins Democratic primary for N.J.'s 2nd District

The Cape May County attorney edged Tim Alexander in a tight race and will face Republican Jeff Van Drew in November's election.

2024 Election U.S. House
Salerno Van Drew Source/

Democrat Joseph Salerno will challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District in the November general election.

Joseph Salerno won the Democratic primary for New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District in an election that came down to the wire. The Lower Township attorney will challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Van Drew in November's general election. 

Salerno edged out Tim Alexander, a civil rights attorney who was defeated by Van Drew in the 2022 general election. Salerno declared victory in a statement Thursday morning, saying he had overcome early polls that showed he was a relative unknown in South Jersey politics.

The final vote tally was not immediately available, but Salerno had a lead of 232 votes with 96% of the vote counted, as of the last tally by the Associated Press. Salerno's advantages were in Cape May and Gloucester counties. Election results are unofficial until certified by election officials. 

"The more people we met, the more we got our message out, the more we could feel our support and momentum growing," Salerno said. "I knew we were winning people over. It was just a question of whether we could connect with enough of them before primary day."

The 2nd District covers all of Atlantic, Cape May, Salem and Cumberland counties, and parts of Gloucester and Ocean counties.

After the June 4 primary, Salerno held an advantage of about 400 votes, with more than 90% of the vote counted. The race could not immediately be called due to about 1,900 disputed mail-in ballots that mistakenly had been opened too early by election officials in Atlantic County in early May — including at least 1,100 Democratic votes. An Atlantic County judge decided last week that the votes needed to be counted despite the error, which resulted from a machine used to sort and timestamp mail ballots.

Salerno said the 2nd District is historically a purple area of New Jersey that alternates between the two major parties. In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden lost to Donald Trump by 5 percentage points.

Van Drew was elected as a Democrat in 2018, but switched parties when he broke with Democrats over their impeachment inquiry into former President Donald Trump in 2019. He since has been reelected twice as a Republican.

Salerno has campaigned on making Social Security and Medicare sustainable, protecting abortion rights, funneling jobs and investment to South Jersey and promoting bipartisan solutions in Washington.

"Incumbents always have a starting advantage, but our advantage is that the incumbent is Jeff Van Drew," Salerno said.