Ex-Eagle Runyan, seeking re-election to Congress, faces widow of man he defeated

Posted: November 06, 2012

IN SOUTH JERSEY'S rough-and-tumble 3rd Congressional District, the mud is flying again as Election Day closes in.

On the football field, that's how Republican incumbent Jon Runyan liked to play during his years with the Philadelphia Eagles. But now, he's accusing his opponent, former Cherry Hill councilwoman Shelley Adler, of going too far recently when she compared his voting record to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"That's been their campaign, to mislead everybody," Runyan said last week.

Runyan, 38, has been busy touring areas of the Jersey Shore hit hardest by Sandy and said the teamwork and determination he's seen there has been refreshing.

"We'll get through this," he said.

Adler, whose late husband, John Adler, lost the congressional seat to Runyan in 2010, said that Runyan has simply toed the Republican line during his two years in Congress. Her spokesman, Michael Muller, said the issues in the 3rd District - which covers most of Burlington County and parts of Ocean County - are the same domestic issues driving the presidential election.

"The national debate is playing out here," Muller said. "This campaign has really been about who is going to stand up for middle-class families and their values."

Although it's been touted as one of New Jersey's most competitive congressional races, Runyan held a sizable 49-39 lead in a Stockton Polling Institute poll released last month. Last year, the 3rd District was remapped and Democrats lost their stronghold, Cherry Hill, where Shelley Adler lives.

Still, Muller said, the redistricting gave the Democrats several blue-collar towns along the Delaware River that traditionally vote Democratic. He said Adler was inspired by her husband's lifelong commitment to public service.

"She really wants to, like her husband, bring a common-sense approach and bring parties together to solve some of the issues," Muller said. "She quotes her former husband often when she says, 'Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas.' "

Adler, a lawyer, met her husband at Harvard Law School.

Runyan said his freshman term in Congress was spent serving his constituents, not the GOP, and he said nearly 60,000 of them are in military service at Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base.

Campaigning, Runyan said, is not something he's grown fond of in his run for re-election.

"It's kind of like how training camp was in the NFL," he said. "It's a necessary part of the job."

Contact Jason Nark at narkj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5916. Follow him on Twitter @JasonNark.