More than 250 Democrats have turned out in a cold January evening to hear Democrats Joshe Welle, Jim Keady and Mike Keeling audition to take on 19-term Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) in November. They’re at a meeting of the Monmouth County Progressive Caucus in Ocean Township.
Another 250 Democrats attended a candidate forum in Wall on Monday — evidence of some grass roots interest in the race against Smith that has not been seen since Josh Zeitz ran in 2008 and Reed Gusciora in 2000.
Welle is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and spent twelve years on active duty in the U.S. Navy. He completed tours in Afghanistan, where he was a military advisor to the U.S. Ambassador. He now runs a technology company.
Keeling is a public school teacher and U.S. Navy veteran. Keady was an Asbury Park Councilman who lost a Democratic congressional primary in the 3rd district in 2016, and a 2015 State Assembly race.
Smith, 64, was first elected in 1980.