A former independent who twice before ran unsuccessfully for Congress won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to vie for South Jersey's Third Congressional District seat.
Frederick J. LaVergne, a former member of the Democratic Republican Party, defeated Jim Keady, a former Asbury Park councilman who was known in a viral video as the "guy who Gov. Christie told to sit down and shut up" after Keady's protest at a Hurricane Sandy event in 2014.
In November, LaVergne will run against Republican freshman Tom MacArthur, a millionaire former insurance CEO who was not challenged in the primary.
LaVergne, 53, previously reported he was a loan officer, but documents filed two weeks ago with Superior Court revealed that he has been unemployed for six years, and is facing the loss of his Delanco house in a sheriff's sale scheduled for August.
He has not responded to requests for comment, but said in a reply to a Facebook message a few weeks ago that he was being "smeared." He also complained about the judge in his case. The documents show he has owed $238,000 on his home mortgage dating back to 2008.
In 2012 and 2014, LaVergne ran as a Democratic Republican, for a party that favors a strict interpretation of the Constitution and state's rights.
In an unusual rift, the Burlington County Democratic Committee endorsed LaVergne in March, while the Ocean County party organization backed Keady, 44, the manager of his family's tavern in Waretown. Soon after the national party's campaign arm threw its support to Keady, Burlington County's chairman, Joe Andl, considered holding a second vote, because Keady had not yet entered the race when Burlington chose LaVergne. Andl later changed his mind.
LaVergne won in Burlington County, which has more than twice as many registered Democrats as Ocean in the Third District, though unaffiliated voters are the majority in both places. Keady won in Ocean County.
The Third District includes much of Burlington and part of Ocean County.
Keady, of Spring Lake, said in a statement that he was "thankful to all my supporters, donors and staff. . . . We fought the good fight. It was simply not enough to overcome the party line in Burlington County."
He was referring to the favorable ballot position LaVergne had beneath Hillary Clinton and other endorsed candidates.
During his campaign for Congress, Keady said he would "never sit down and shut up" as Christie had instructed but would fight for middle-class families. Keady had protested that Christie had neglected the needs of displaced Shore homeowners after Sandy hit the area because Christie had frequently campaigned out-of-state.
LaVergne reported to federal election authorities that he had raised $600, while Keady reported that he raised more than $55,000 in campaign funds.
The district has been represented by Republicans for decades, except for 2009 to 2011, when Democrat John Adler was in office.