Maverick candidate Ian Smith quits NJ GOP for Lib Party

Fresh from his landslide defeat in the Republican primary for Congress, gym owner Ian Smith is quitting the GOP.

Smith confirmed that he had moved to the Libertarian Party of New Jersey.

The owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr first made headlines when he defied Governor Phil Murphy’s shutdown ordered during the pandemic. He was part of a new generation of Republicans who sought to subvert party norms during the primary.

He was beaten by businessman Bob Healy in the 3rd District primary 53%-38%. Healy will now face incumbent Democrat Andy Kim (D-Moorestown).

By joining the Libertarian Party, Smith says it is “the change we seek”.

Smith declined to say whether he will urge his followers to back Healy. This seems unlikely with the change of party. Ewing Police Officer Christopher Russomano is the Libertarian candidate running in the 3rd against Healy and Kim.

The campaign of the maverick candidate has been marred by controversy. Before he announced he would run, stories surfaced of him killing a teenager in a drunken accident 15 years ago when Smith was 20. He took full responsibility and dismissed the incident as a youthful indiscretion.

Then, on March 27, Smith was arrested in Cinnaminson after his truck was seen swerving and nearly hitting another vehicle. He refused a breathalyzer test and was charged with impaired driving.

Police body camera video shows Smith telling officers, “You know I’m running for Congress for this district, right?”

Four weeks later, his running mate, Valérie Gallagher, was also charged with drunk driving. Gallagher was a candidate for Burlington County Commissioner. She lost her race to Jeff Fortune, who had the support of the County GOP Chairman.

Eric Scott is the senior policy director and anchor of New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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