NJ-03: Richter, Gibbs spar over massive proposed toll hike plan

MT. HOLLY, N.J. – State authorities set their own highway tolls, but transportation – and how to fund it – is quickly becoming a point of contention in this year’s NJ-03 Republican primary.

The back-and-forth began on Friday when David Richter’s campaign attacked his opponent, Kate Gibbs, because her employer (Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative (ELEC) 825), an affiliate of the International Union of Operating Engineers, backs a controversial plan to dramatically raise tolls on New Jersey’s major toll roads.

“There is no way that the Turnpike Authority should be considering toll hikes right now. First, the public has not had a fair chance to have their voices heard on this issue. Second, this is absolutely the wrong time to be increasing costs for New Jersey’s drivers,” Richter said, referring to the authority’s remote hearings conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Gibbs serves as the influential labor organization’s deputy director.

If approved, the transportation funding plan would increase Turnpike tolls by 36% and Parkway tolls by 27%.

Richter (left) and Gibbs (right)

Gibbs counter-punched on Monday by accusing her adversary of profiting from precisely the sort of transportation spending he is currently criticizing. 

“David Richter literally got rich from the construction and expansion of toll roads and bridges in New Jersey, across the country, and even in Russia! Frankly, David’s bizarre decision to attack me on this issue reeks of hypocrisy and pandering,” said Gibbs.

Richter’s former construction firm – Hill International – has a portfolio of past transportation projects pertaining to toll roads, toll plazas, EZ-Pass tag reader instillation and bridges. 

Although not specifically endorsing toll hikes at the time, Richter repeatedly endorsed increasing transportation spending during his original NJ-02 campaign before jumping over to the 3rd district.

Richter is endorsed by Ocean County’s GOP while Gibbs has the Burlington line; the winner of the NJ-03 primary will face freshman Democrat Andy Kim in November.