State Sen. Ed Durr, the Republican truck driver who shockingly ousted former Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney in 2021, faces a potential primary from a mayor in his South Jersey district.
East Greenwich Mayor Dale Archer offered scathing words about Durr (R-Gloucester) and Gloucester County Republican Chair Jacci Vigilante in an interview Friday with POLITICO.
“The bottom line is we shouldn’t even be having a discussion about someone primarying Ed Durr. He’s unqualified, controversial and proven that he cannot even handle the position of senator,” Archer said. “He should gracefully step aside for a more qualified candidate, because that’s what’s best for the people.”
Archer, a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Gulf War, said Vigilante “lacks the courage to tell [Durr] he shouldn’t run.”
“She believes she should be the party boss instead of taking into consideration what’s best for the party,” he said.
Durr became a minor national celebrity on the right as “Ed the Trucker” after ousting Sweeney despite having little money or name recognition.
Durr faced some controversy after his election when a reporter unearthed Islamophobic tweets he made two years prior to his run. Durr helped defuse the matter by meeting with representatives of the Islamic community and even introducing legislation calling on the state to recognize two Muslim holidays. In the Senate, he’s introduced gun rights legislation, but has kept a relatively low profile.
Archer’s comments show how divided the Gloucester County GOP — which has spent years as a perennial minority party against the powerful South Jersey Democratic machine — remains despite getting a taste of power in 2021. The party, however, came up short in this year’s county elections, failing to win any seats on the Board of Commissioners when control was up for grabs against Democrats who have long controlled New Jersey politics. Durr also has a strained relationship with his Assembly district mate, Beth Sawyer (R-Gloucester), who last month ruled out a challenge to him.
“Ms. Vigilante should be stepping aside as chairwoman because she could not deliver in 2022,” Archer said. “I strongly believe if I was at the top of the ticket, not only could I be the next [Legislative District 3] senator, but I would carry the ticket for the rest of the party because I'm a proven leader.”
Archer declined to detail Durr’s shortcomings in the Senate, instead listing his own accomplishments from his 10 years as mayor of East Greenwich, which has a population of about 10,000.
“When I took over as mayor 10 years ago, our town was pretty dysfunctional as well as in financial despair. We had less than $15,000 in surplus. … We had a million-dollar deficit. A debt of well over $20-plus million. We had just laid off one third of our police force,” Archer said. “Here we are 10 years later. We have not raised our municipal tax for the past seven years. We have increased our surplus to well over $2.5 million. We have drastically paid down our debt and we are on pace to be debt free in 2030. We have bolstered our police department, improved the technology and equipment, we have the second-lowest municipal tax [and] we were voted best small town in New Jersey in 2022 [by South Jersey Magazine].”
Vigilante said in a statement that Archer had “failed to support the county Republican party for the past five years suddenly has an opinion on county and state politics.”
“This is the same man who failed to deliver for our county-wide candidates last year by delivering 900 fewer votes than he got for his local candidates. That kind of undervote is purposeful sabotage,” Vigilante said. “Mr. Archer can say what he wants about Senator Durr, but unlike the Senator, Archer hid in East Greenwich while the Senator stepped up to challenge Steve Sweeney.”
Added Vigilante: “It’s always easy to play Monday morning quarterback but accusing people of being unqualified and lacking courage without actually having played the game is just noise.”
Reached by phone for comment, Durr said: “The people of New Jersey’s 3rd Legislative District chose me to be their senator in 2021, and I have every confidence that the people of the 3rd Legislative District will choose me to be their senator in June and in November.”