Fresh off his landslide loss in the Republican primary for Congress, gym owner Ian Smith is leaving the GOP.

Smith confirmed he has switched to New Jersey's Libertarian Party.

Smith made a name for himself by opening Atilis Gym in Bellmawr during pandemic shutdown orders. He was part of a new crop of Republicans who sought to buck party norms during the primary.

He was defeated by businessman Bob Healey in the 3rd District primary 53%-38%. Healey will now go on to face Democratic incumbent Andy Kim.

On joining the Libertarian Party, Smith says it is "the change we are looking for."

Smith has refused to say if he will urge his supporters to back Healey. That seems unlikely with the party switch. Ewing Police officer Christopher Russomano is the Libertarian candidate running in the 3rd against Healey and Kim.

The maverick candidate's campaign was marred by controversy. Before he announced he was running, stories surfaced of him killing a teenager in a drunken crash 15 years ago, when Smith was 20 years old. He acknowledged responsibility but 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 DUI.

Police bodycam video shows Smith telling officers, "You know I'm a congressional candidate for this district, right?"

Four weeks later, his running mate, Valerie Gallagher, was also charged with driving while intoxicated. Gallagher was running for Burlington County Commissioner.  She lost her race to Jeff Fortune, who had the backing of the county GOP chairman.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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