WASHINGTON --Dave Cole, a former White House aide and Obama campaign staffer, will enter the race for Congress in South Jersey's second district, setting up a Democratic primary for the right to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
Cole, a software engineer who lives in Mantua, Gloucester County, said he will make a formal announcement next week but he is already fund raising.
"My campaign is based on a simple belief: Everyone who wants a job should be able to find one. And everyone who works hard should be able to provide for their families. That's a strong middle class, and it's what I'm fighting for," Cole wrote in a fund raising appeal.
He has a lot of catching up to do. LoBiondo had $1.1 million cash on hand as of his latest report while Democratic challenger Bill Hughes Jr., a defense attorney and son of a longtime Congressman from the district, had raised $185,000 in two months.
"As I look across at what has become of the middle class here in families like mine, things are not getting any easier," Cole, 28, said in a telephone interview. "We've had a Congress that's been incredibly unresponsive to the needs of working families."
Cole, a software engineer, recently played a key role in developing healthcare.gov -- the highly-criticized Web site for President Obama's Affordable Care Act. He worked on that project as a private contractor after previously working on Obama's 2008 presidential campaigns and in the White House as a senior advisor to the U.S. chief information officer and deputy director of new media.
Cole said he and his team worked on the health care site's home page, not the portion tied to the health exchange sign ups, which were the subject of the biggest problems and scorn. He said he "would have loved" to have had a chance to make other parts of the site better.
"Health reform one of the most important policies we have in at least a half century," Cole said. "I want to be working hard to improve it, not to repeal it."
Cole grew up in Mullica Hill and was student body president at Rutgers. He moved back to South Jersey in November, he said. Cole is a general manager at Mapbox, a tech company that helps designers develop maps for Web sites, apps and other applications, but said he will scale back his hours to campaign.
The South Jersey district is a top target for Democrats after Obama won it twice. But LoBiondo is a 10-term incumbent and now Democrats face the prospect of a primary fight.
Cole had been exploring a run and decided to jump into the race after state Sen. Jeff Van Drew declined to run.
The South Jersey district includes Atlantic City and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Delaware River. It includes parts of Burlington, Gloucester, Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean and Salem counties.