Republican Runyan beats Adler in South Jersey

Republican Jon Runyan accepts his reelection to Congress from South Jersey, with his family at the Westin in Mount Laurel.
Republican Jon Runyan accepts his reelection to Congress from South Jersey, with his family at the Westin in Mount Laurel. (DAVID M WARREN / StaffPhotographer)
Posted: November 08, 2012

Former Eagles lineman Jon Runyan won reelection Tuesday in his race against the widow of his Democratic predecessor in South Jersey's Third Congressional District.

The Republican, 38, who captured his first term with tea party support, overpowered Shelley Adler, 53.

In South Jersey's two other House races, Reps. Rob Andrews, a Democrat, and Frank LoBiondo, a Republican, easily won new terms. Andrews has represented the First District for 22 years; LoBiondo has represented the sprawling Second District for 17 years.

The Runyan-Adler contest was one of the most expensive and intense House races in the state. The candidates and their supporters spent more than $2 million - $1.4 million by Runyan and $864,000 by Adler, as of the latest federal filings - much of it on negative advertising.

Before Sandy struck but after weather forecasters had begun to predict potentially dire consequences, Adler's campaign released a radio ad that compared Runyan to what became a killer storm. It was withdrawn days later.

Runyan's campaign portrayed Adler as a tax-and-spend liberal who voted three times to raise property taxes when she was a Cherry Hill councilwoman.

The race, in many ways, was a repeat of the 2010 campaign.

Adler's husband, John, a longtime state legislator, represented the previously Republican district in Congress for one term before losing to Runyan that year. He died five months later of complications from a bacterial staph endocarditis infection.

Shelley Adler, a Harvard-educated lawyer, said running against Runyan was not personal. "He's just an opponent with a voting record," she said.

Runyan cast that record as one that demonstrated he had the fiscal discipline needed to repair the economy. In his first term, the Mount Laurel resident twice voted for the Republican spending plan proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the House budget chairman and Mitt Romney's GOP vice presidential candidate.

Runyan has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health-care measure known as Obamacare, and wants a government that holds down taxes and cuts spending and regulations.

The race was targeted by both national parties and attracted heavy spending by conservative groups that hoped Republicans could hold onto the House.

An array of conservative organizations, including the National Rifle Association and American Action Network, spent on Runyan's behalf.

His financial backing came largely from military contractors, fellow Republicans, and doctors, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money.

Adler received backing from lawyers' groups and prominent Democrats.

The district, which covers most of Burlington County and part of Ocean County, had been a GOP stronghold for more than a century before John Adler won in 2008 with the help of Obama's national surge.

Runyan, who grew up in Flint, Mich., and went to the University of Michigan, recaptured it for Republicans as the tea party wave swept through races nationwide. He faced a more favorable electorate this year, thanks to redistricting.

The new map cut out Cherry Hill, Adler's home base. A candidate does not have to be a resident of a district, only the state, to run for a House seat. Adler had planned to relocate to the district if she won Tuesday.

In the First District, Andrews, 55, of Haddon Heights, overcame unresolved ethics questions regarding use of campaign funds to defeat Gregory Horton, 46, a vice principal at Clearview Regional Middle School who had run for elected office only once before.

Horton, of Haddonfield, campaigned on a standard Republican platform of repealing Obama's health-care measures, cutting taxes, and reducing regulation.

The district covers all but one township in Camden County and part of Gloucester County.

In the Second District, LoBiondo, 66, of Ventnor, a political powerhouse, far outspent his opponent, Democrat Cassandra Shober, also of Ventnor, to win a 10th term.

Shober, a political newcomer who ran her husband's law office, had argued that LoBiondo opposed economic-stimulus measures, voted for legislation to protect companies that ship jobs overseas, and is in lockstep with tea party conservatives.

The district, the state's largest, covers coastal Ocean County from Barnegat Light south; all of Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May Counties; parts of Gloucester and Burlington counties; and Waterford Township in Camden County.


Contact Joseph Gambardello at jgambardello@phillynews.com or 856-779-3844.

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