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Aimee Belgard
Congressman Jon Runyan has never had much influence in his two terms in Congress. As a former Philadelphia Eagles football player, he leveraged his popularity across the river in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District to defeat the late John Adler in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012, defeating Adler’s widow, Shelley.

Although Runyan did not wear the Tea Party mantle, his voting record was not much different than if he had. Realizing the general distaste for Republicans among moderates and independents, the former NFL “tough guy” has decided to call it quits and not run for re-election.

NJ-3 is a challenging district for Democrats. Except for Adler, the district has sent Republicans to Congress for decades. But this year is different. Because of the unpopularity of the sequester and government shutdown, many of the so-called “safe” GOP seats across the country are now up for grabs, and NJ-3 is one of them, especially with the popular Senator Cory Booker at the top of the ticket as he runs for a full term.

Even before Runyan’s surprise announcement, Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard started planning to run for that seat. According to a national Democratic congressional campaign staffer I spoke to, Runyan’s exit improves the chances for the seat to flip Democratic, and today Belgard kicked off her campaign.

Before announcing, Belgard resigned from her law firm and from her position as a leader of the American Cancer Society in order to devote her full energies to the campaign. Today, she formally kicked off her quest at the historic Alice Paul Institute, the former home of its eponymous early 20th Century feminist and suffragist. Here are Belgard’s remarks.

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