Congressman Jeff Van Drew tells his supporters that it was a “brutal election.” By DONALD WITTKOWSKI and MADDY VITALERepublican Congressman Jeff Van Drew declared victory Tuesday night in the hotly contested 2nd Congressional District race that pitted the incumbent against Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy.Unofficial results showed Van Drew with about a 10,000-vote lead over Kennedy with 141,203 to 131,336, respectively. Kennedy, though, would not concede on Election Night.In another key race, Cape May County Republican Freeholders Will Morey and Jeff Pierson easily won reelection, beating back their Democratic challengers, Brendan Sciarra and Liz Casey.Completing a Republican sweep for the Cape May County incumbents, Sheriff Bob Nolan and County Clerk Rita Marie Fulginiti ran unopposed to win new terms.Van Drew, who was originally elected to Congress in 2018 as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party last year and closely aligned himself with President Donald Trump.Van Drew said “a lot of power was used against me” by the Democratic Party to target him as a Republican.“This has been a long and hard and brutal election,” he told his jubilant supporters while declaring victory in remarks at the Oar House Pub in Sea Isle City.Democrat Amy Kennedy is joined by supporters on the campaign trail. (Courtesy of Amy Kennedy campaign)As he did throughout the campaign, Van Drew sounded his theme about keeping America “strong.”Among key areas he outlined, he said he wants to keep the military, the police, and the environment strong as he prepares to enter his second term in Congress.Van Drew also stressed that America must maintain strength while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.Telling his supporters that the virus came from China, he said America was forced “to beg” China for personal protective equipment when the U.S. supply chain was disrupted after COVID-19 initially broke out.“I don’t want to ever see that again,” he said.He pledged that the U.S. supply chain will be strengthened to help the nation fight the virus.While Van Drew declared victory, Kennedy, of Brigantine, chose not to concede.“As you all know, the polls closed almost two hours ago, and ballots are still being counted,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I have said from the beginning of this campaign that it is important that every vote be counted, and every voice heard and as we expected, it looks like that process will continue beyond tonight.”She noted that she made the decision to run when Van Drew switched to the Republican Party.“It was then that I knew I had to step up and do something,” Kennedy said. “And tonight, after months and months of South Jersey waiting for economic relief and strong leadership that hasn’t come, I know I made the right decision.”From left, Assemblyman Erik Simonsen, Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio, Assemblyman Antwan McClellan and Cape May County Republican Chairman Michael Donohue celebrate the GOP sweep in county races.Meanwhile, Kennedy’s campaign manager Josh Roesch said Kennedy was not going to concede Tuesday night.“The race is close as expected. Tens of thousands of votes need to be counted over the next few weeks and we will work hard to make sure every vote is counted, and every voice is heard,” Roesch said in a statement.Roesch stressed in his remarks that the majority of the remaining votes to be counted are in Atlantic and Cumberland counties, “which are Democratic counties Amy is currently winning and we fully expect to win,” he said. “At the end of the day, when all the votes are counted, we are confident Amy Kennedy will be elected to Congress.”The 2nd Congressional District encompasses a vast swath of territory in the southern part of the state – eight counties and 92 towns. It includes the Jersey Shore towns, the Delaware Bay and some of the state’s most rural communities. Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties make up the core areas, with parts of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Ocean counties also included in the district.In the race for freeholder two incumbent Republicans handily retained their seats.Meanwhile, Morey and Pierson won going away in the race for the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Unofficial results showed Morey with 27,403 votes and Pierson with 26,525. Sciarra and Casey had 18,543 and 18,458 votes, respectively.Pierson said of the win, “I really think the negativity of our opponents toward us and the freeholder board really made us work hard.”Cape May County Republican Freeholders Will Morey, left, and Jeff Pierson thank their supporters.Pierson noted that both he and Morey had some “angst” while defending themselves against the attacks from their challengers. “I’m just happy to get through this. I had a lot of angst. Will had a lot of angst,” he said.Morey said he and Pierson were able to connect with Cape May County voters by emphasizing “substance” and their accomplishments during the campaign.“You’ve got to listen to the people,” Morey said.When it was clear a win was within their grasp, Morey and Pierson thanked their supporters in remarks at an outdoor bar at the Sea Isle Inn, a hotel owned by Leonard Desiderio, the mayor of Sea Isle who is also a member of the Cape May County Freeholder Board.Of the 75,436 registered Cape May County voters, 66.6 percent cast votes totaling 50,246, according to the Clerk’s Office website capemaycountyvotes.com.The results do not include a portion of the mail-in ballots received on Election Day or mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3, which may be received through Nov. 10 and provisional ballots.The unofficial vote totals from Election night are posted at www.capemaycountyvotes.com. The totals will be updated as final and official results are recorded.Election worker Howard Wright checks his voter records at the polling place at the Sea Isle City Library.