Seth Grossman’s surprise victory in the Republican primary in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District has brought immediate national scrutiny of the Trump purist from Democrats who see a November victory by Democrat Jeff Van Drew as essential to their plans to seize control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
A Washington-based political action committee that is supporting Van Drew has zeroed in on comments that Grossman, an Atlantic County lawyer, made during the sleepy Republican primary campaign, comments mostly overlooked at the time.
“The whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American,” Grossman said at a GOP campaign forum held April 21 in Pittsgrove, Salem County. That comment, captured on video, was filmed by American Bridge to the 21st Century, a Washington-based political action committee that monitors Republican candidates. It was provided to the Inquirer and Daily News shortly after the June 5 primary.
In the two-minute video clip, Grossman calls diversity “an excuse by Democrats, communists, and socialists, basically, to say that we’re not all created equal; that some people, if somebody is lesser qualified, they will get a job anyway, or they’ll get into college anyway, because of the tribe that they’re with, what group, what box they fit into.”
He also insults Kim Guadagno, the former Republican lieutenant governor who ran and lost to Phil Murphy in the New Jersey governor’s race, suggesting she was only nominated because she is a woman. He yearns for a time when women did not have to work, and says a tightening of immigration laws should appeal to African Americans.
“So that’s the diversity box, and I think Republicans make a big mistake when we nominate lesser-qualified candidates because they fit into that box,” Grossman says on the video. “I believe that’s why Republicans nominated Kim Guadagno instead of Jack Ciattarelli last time. Oh, she’s a woman; she’ll get more votes, because we’re showing how diverse we are. Look how that turned out.”
Monday morning, Grossman said he recalled making the comments at the forum, sponsored by New Jersey Constitutional Republicans, and stood by them.
“I said it,” Grossman said. “I believe in America that each individual should be judged on nothing but his or her talent, character and hard work. I’m rejecting the whole premise of diversity as a virtue.”
Andrew Bates, deputy communications director for American Bridge, called Grossman’s comments, “divisive and insulting.”
“Someone should do Seth Grossman a favor and let him know what century this is,” Bates said in a statement. “South Jersey deserves far better than the divisive and insulting values he wants to force on it.”
Van Drew campaign spokesman Michael Muller said Monday that Van Drew is “quite disappointed” by Grossman’s comments.
“Senator Van Drew wants to be a congressman that embraces our diversity because that is the foundation of [the] country’s success for generations as a land of opportunity,” Muller said in a statement.
Grossman’s unabashed “Support Trump” campaign signs and embrace of a “Make America Great Again” theme make him a bit of a wildcard in what was thought to be a weak Republican primary field whose winner faces the powerful and well-financed Van Drew, a conservative Democrat.
New Jersey’s Second District has been represented by retiring Republican Frank LoBiondo of Ventnor for 24 years. It is considered a likely district to flip from Republican to Democrat, with political analysts considering the conservative Van Drew, 65, to be a well-financed, proven vote-getter and ideological match for the sprawling district that includes Cape May, Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland and parts of Ocean, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties. The district went for Trump, but also twice for Obama.
Grossman, 69, former Atlantic City councilman and Atlantic County freeholder, founded a group known as “Liberty and Prosperity,” and holds court most Saturdays at the Shore Diner in Northfield.
He said Monday he believes his pro-Trump message will resonate in the general election against Van Drew, whom he said he has long considered a friend and whose family barbecues he attended until last year. Grossman said his father, Eli, did dental research alongside Van Drew, who is a dentist.
Grossman said the American Bridge PAC was trying to brand Trump Republicans as “radical and unacceptable.”
In the video clip, as the other Republican primary candidates look on, Grossman also suggests that African Americans will embrace the same “traditional ways that made America great for all these years.”
“Once we say that the Republicans want these traditional ways that made America great for all these years, then maybe African Americans would realize that when we enforce our immigration laws, there’ll be more opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds,” Grossman says.
— Amy S. Rosenberg (@amysrosenberg) June 6, 2018
Those times included a time when women did not need to work, Grossman says, and there was no need for tax credits for child care.
“When we talk about women saying, ‘Well, we need special care for child care. We need this credit and that credit. Say, wait a minute, when America was great, one parent alone earned more than enough money to comfortably support a family,” he said. “That’s what happened before we chopped Americans into these different boxes and saying I’m entitled to something because I’m part of this group.”
Going into the general election, Van Drew shows about $400,000 on hand. Grossman has just over $10,000.
In terms of turnout, the primary election drew 28,253 Democrats and 25,925 Republicans to the polls. Van Drew supporters have said they believe he will appeal to moderate Republicans in the district. He defeated three progressive challengers in the district.
As for Grossman, he said he has long supported Van Drew and might have continued to do so under different circumstances.
“If these were normal times, I would support him,” Grossman said. “These are not normal times.”