ATLANTIC CITY – Bill Hughes Jr. wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.
On Thursday, Hughes kicked off his campaign for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District at Kennedy Plaza on the Atlantic City boardwalk.
He is challenging U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, whose seat is up for election in November 2014. LoBiondo is a veteran Republican House member who succeeded Bill Hughes Sr. in 1994 after the congressman chose not to seek re-election.
In announcing his campaign, Bill Hughes Jr., a Democrat who lives in Northfield, said it is time for a change. He said there are really three reasons why he decided announce now his intent to make a run for LoBiondo’s seat. “This is a defining moment for LoBiondo. Primarily, it is the issue of the shutdown. If I am going to run and draw a sharp contract between LoBiondo and myself, now is the time,” said Hughes.
“New Jersey residents are tired of the irresponsible brinksmanship in Washington that brought on the reckless government shutdown and continues to threaten local jobs,” said Hughes. “Our community can’t afford to be represented by someone who continues to oppose any reasonable solutions and keeps repeating the same failed policies that are hurting our economy. “He sat on his hands on the sidelines and waited until his party told him he could vote,” said the newly announced candidate. “He is talking east and walking west.” LoBiondo voted for the shutdown and after it was already shutdown he worked behind the scenes but did nothing to help end it,” said Hughes Friday morning. Hughes also said LoBiondo was a part of the 1995 shut down and the FAA shutdown in 2011. “He likes to day he is bi-partisan but he is not really working in a bi-partisan fashion,” said Hughes.
“New Jersey needs a new and responsible leader who will work to protect and grow our middle class, create new jobs, and spur our local economy – that’s why I am running for Congress.”
Hughes said he is committed to ending what he called the “irresponsible gridlock in Washington that is stifling New Jersey’s economy.”
Creating new well-paying jobs and protecting and growing New Jersey businesses, middle class families and seniors, as well as providing quality education and well-trained teachers for every child are Hughes’s top priorities, he said in a prepared statement.
Hughes said his father is very supportive of his decision to run for the congressional seat his father held for 20 years. “There was a great deal of discussion before making the decision to run; professionally, politically and personally. What I came to realize is that the stakes are too great. If there is going to be a change, now is the time for that change,” Hughes said.
Friday morning Bill Hughes Jr. was a guest on the Harry Hurley Show and he took his oldest son, 6-year-old Johnny with him to the show. “I was 6 years old when my dad was elected to the Congress. He was invited to come in and talk to Harry Hurley Show on the second day the show was broadcast and he took me with him. Those were wonderful years,” said Hughes. “And aside from the fact that I have morning duty on Friday with Johnny I was really happy to be able to share that experience with my son.” Johnny is William John Hughes III but his father said, “We have enough Bill’s in the house so he is Johnny.”
The 2nd District changes representatives infrequently. Republican Charles Sandman held the seat from 1967 until 1975, losing to Hughes Sr. in the wake of Watergate. Hughes held the office for 20 years.
LoBiondo lost his first bid for Congress against Hughes Sr., but won the seat with 65 percent of the vote after Hughes stepped aside. Since then he has not faced a candidate who could match his name recognition or campaign funding. Among his challengers were Fairfield Township Committeewoman Viola Thomas-Hughes in 2006, Cape May City Councilman David Kurkowski in 2008 and Gary Stein in 2010.
In previous races, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted LoBiondo and issued a steady stream of statements criticizing him, but so far has not put serious backing behind a candidate.
The National Republican Congressional Committee wasted no time taking a swipe at Hughes, on Thursday launching a website as www.nrcc.org/bill-hughes-jr-congress/ saying he's made a career of "fighting to keep some of New Jersey's worst criminals out of jail."
LoBiondo said he welcomed Hughes to the race.
“At its core America is built upon the belief that every voice has the right to be heard and every vote counts. As I have said previously, I welcome all interested candidates into the race and look forward to a vigorous discussion of the issues, their involvement in our community and the qualifications they would bring to representing the 2nd Congressional District,” he said in a prepared statement released this week.
Born and raised in South Jersey, Hughes is a partner at the law firm Cooper Levenson where he has counseled individuals and businesses throughout New Jersey for 12 years. Before joining the firm in 2002 he served as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and clerk for the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
The son of William J. and Nancy Hughes of Ocean City, Hughes has served as the president of the Jersey Shore Council of the Boy Scouts of America and is a former chairman of the Atlantic County Crimestoppers. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three boys.
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