Will Cunningham ‘Proud’ Of Race’s Impact; Amy Kennedy to Face Van Drew

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

VINELAND – Progressive African-American Congressional candidate Will Cunningham fell short in his second attempt to win New Jersey District 2 Democratic nomination, coming in third in a hotly contest primary that ended Tuesday.

With 49 percent of the vote counted Wednesday in a mostly mail-in ballot election in South Jersey, Amy Kennedy was declared the winner with 59.2 percent of the vote (18,615), according to the New York Times. Brigid Callahan Harrison, which had the official endorsement of many of the New Jersey Democrat Party bosses, came in second with 25.5 percent (8,019).

Cunningham, the former Congressional staffer who finished behind incumbent Jeff Van Drew in the Democratic primary two years ago, was third with 11.7 percent of the vote (3,665). A second African-American in the race, West Cape May councilman John Francis, finished with 557 votes.

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“I will cherish these last seven months, and the love, generosity and support each and every donor and supporter have shown,” Cunningham said in a statement released on Twitter Wednesday. “I could not be more proud of the impact we had, the voice you all allowed me to amplify and the movement for progressive change we created.”

Cunningham had one a prestigious endorsement from the Philadelphia Inquirer for the seat, but it came late in the unusual campaign where the vast majority of people likely voted early on mail-in ballots.

“We ran a helluva race, and I am confident the final results next week will show that,” Cunningham said. “I will take some time for myself the next several weeks, but I will look back on this race fondly, in those quiet moments of solace, and remember that to give a damn is the first step to making a difference.

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“Because of you all, we took several leaps in making a difference, and on behalf of me and my family, I cannot express my sincere gratitude enough,” he added.

The Congressional seat with carry national significance with President Donald Trump giving a full-throated endorsement to Van Drew, who switched parties earlier this year during the president’s impeachment.

The move angered many South Jersey Democrats and sparked the crowded Democratic primary field wanting to run against him in November.

“Our country and our community are in crisis because of the devastating impact of COVID-19 and the needless murder of George Floyd, the most recent victim in a seemingly endless string of acts of violence against people of color in America,” Kennedy said in a statement after the election.

“… So, my message to Jeff Van Drew tonight is – we have had enough and we demand better. We have had enough division and hate and selfishness. We have had enough of being abandoned and mistreated and forgotten. We have had enough of you and Donald Trump,” Kennedy added.

Here is Cunningham’s full statement:

“Friends – stories like mine do not usually achieve what we have achieved.

“I was 17 years old when a local reporter discovered I had recently been accepted to Brown upon overcoming homelessness, leading her to ask me what I intended to do with the opportunity I had just earned. My only desire at that young age was to make sure others had that same chance to improve their lives that I just received; to be a true public servant.

“That 17 year old – his will to fight, his idealism, and his tenacity is still within me, and was present throughout this race.

“He was there serving food at the soup kitchen he once ate at.

“He delivered groceries to those in need because he grew up without a car and knew the neediest had no means of transportation.

“He worriedly saw his mother go to work every day in the middle of a pandemic amidst staggering COVID racial disparity rates nationally for low income workers.

“He saw his 34-year-old self march in solidarity for racial equality and give speeches recounting the horror of having his body thrown on the ground and handcuffed at the age of 13.

“The world has changed so much from when I announced my candidacy the first week of 2020 but, believe it or not, there is no other time period  in which I would have wanted to run to represent my community.

“Mine has always been a candidacy about rolling up one’s sleeves, getting in the trenches, and fiercely fighting for vulnerable populations. Not simply talking the talk, but fiercely walking the wall.

“When my community was afraid in uncertain times, we became a resource for those in need and demonstrated what true presentation should look like.

“When my community marched, mourned and grieved the death of countless black lives and police brutality, I marched, mourned and grieved with them in nearly 20 different protest rallies across South Jersey.

“My family has called Cumberland County home for half a century, and I will always be a proud Son of South Jersey. But I also now have an extended family across NJ-2 in so many towns whose residents embraced me and became my campaign family. You know who you are. Thank you and I love you.

“I will cherish these last seven months, and the love, generosity and support each and every donor and supporter have shown.

“I could not be more proud of the impact we had, the voice you all allowed me to amplify and the movement for progressive change we created.

“We ran a helluva race, and I am confident the final results next week will show that,” Cunningham said. “I will take some time for myself the next several weeks, but I will look back on this race fondly, in those quiet moments of solace, and remember that to give a damn is the first step to making a difference.

“Because of you all, we took several leaps in making a difference, and on behalf of me and my family, I cannot express my sincere gratitude enough.

“Thank you. Seventeen year old Will could not have done this without you. Progressively yours, Will Cunningham.

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