New Jersey Primary "Endorsements"

For Senate to take on incumbent Cory Booker, the former Democratic mayor of Newark, there are four Republicans in the field.  In reality, the chances of a GOP upset here are quite small unless Booker somehow self-destructs.  As has been noted in a different context, Redstate itself was silent in the 2013 special election that sent Booker to Washington to replace the deceased Frank Lautenberg.  The reason was that a Redstate endorsement either way would have made little difference as Booker was the presumptive winner, confirmed on Special Election Day.  But, this is for a full 6-year term.  Have circumstances changed so dramatically that anyone should wholeheartedly throw support into this race?  The answer is “No.”  Most likely, Booker will win again.

The fact is that other than one of the six Republican Congressmen or the state’s governor, the list to run against Booker is short.  No one has the requisite name recognition or political gravitas to take on Booker.  Jeff Bell is a “been there/done that” candidate and his chances this time out are no greater than his losing chances previous times out.  Brian Goldberg is a relative unknown businessman who stands less of a chance than Bell.  And Murray Sabrin, who is a frequent candidate, is known to New Jersey voters, but more politically aligned with the Libertarian Party than the Republican Party.  So that leaves, by default, Rich Pezzullo- a Freehold-based Republican.  In a recent poll, 91% of potential New Jersey voters had never heard of Pezzullo.  Normally that would be a bad thing,but when you are in a “nothing to lose” position, it could play to your advantage.  This is a guy who is pro-gun but anti- death penalty and who is pro-life,but pro-SSM on social issues.  And he has run in the past as the candidate for the Conservative Party in New Jersey.  Therefore, this writer supports Rich Pezzullo.

Long time 1st District Congressman Rob Andrews (Democrat) is retiring at the end of this term.  This district is based in Camden, a minority-dominated, low income slum of a city.  Seriously- you can smell it 2 miles away.  It is also a heavily Democratic district.  On the Republican side, there are four candidates- Gary Cobb, Claire Gustafson, Lee Lucas and Gerard McManus.  The only one with some political experience is Lee Lucas who, in 2009 while running for the state assembly, uttered the unthinkable “N” word in relation to black constituents.  The Republican Party ran from him then and will likely again as the comment is too recent in the memory of many.  Gary Cobb is a former football player in the NFL and a sports analyst on the local Fox News outlet in Philadelphia.  Although his stances on issues have yet to be fleshed out, he is likely not your black conservative in the mold of an Allen West, but he is also likely the best chance the GOP has in this district.  This is especially true since he’ll probably take on the very well-connected and well-funded power broker and state senator Don Norcross.  Although Cobb’s chances of winning are somewhere near about 10%, this is a low risk endorsement.  However, being somewhat familiar with New Jersey politics and Donald Norcross, one should not be surprised if sometime within the next three years there are ethical allegations against him.  Norcross is a typical sleazy New Jersey Democratic politician.

In the 2nd, incumbent Republican Frank LoBiondo faces a challenge again from local politician Mike Assad whom LoBiondo defeated in 2012 in the GOP primary.  The 2nd’s population base is in the ethnically diverse Atlantic County region, but also includes some heavily Hispanic areas of neighboring counties.  Redistricting has added some area in conservative Ocean County.  Leaving aside the fact that Obama won this district in 2008 and 2012, LoBiondo has represented the district since 1994 and done quite well.  This year he will likely face the son of a former popular Congressman, Bill Hughes, Jr.  This may be LoBiondo’s closest brush with defeat in recent years, but he should survive since he does bring home the pork.  And having worked closely with him at times, he is responsive to his constituents.  Given these dynamics- LoBiondo’s record, his opponent this time, the changing demographics- one is almost forced to endorse Frank LoBiondo.

John Runyan is vacating the Third District after two terms in order to pursue other interests.  This district is being heavily targeted by the Democrats with Aimee Belgard being their most likely candidate.  There is some national interest in this race as Redstate itself has weighed in also.  Both Republican candidates- Steve Lonegan and Tom MacArthur- did not originally reside in this district, but do now.  Lonegan is the former mayor of Bogota in Bergen County while MacArthur is the former mayor of Randolph, also in north Jersey.  The third stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the Jersey shore.  Lonegan has the greater name recognition and political experience.  He ran for the GOP gubernatorial nod in 2009 and lost to Chris Christie and he ran against Cory Booker in the 2013 special election.  Although he lost, it was the best performance by a Republican in a senate race in 12 years and he beat Booker in the 3rd District.  In effect, you have two “carpetbaggers,” or political opportunists so that argument against one another washes.

This race is being portrayed as the Establishment favorite- MacArthur- versus the Tea Party favorite- Lonegan, although Lonegan was “Tea Party” before there was a Tea Party.  Some operatives view the 3rd as Republican territory and it is in Ocean County, a bastion of conservatives in the state (it is where North Jersey conservatives flee to).  But, it also encompasses some highly populated, more liberal areas closer to the Pennsylvania border.  Assuming the Ocean County vote drowns out some of the vote in those areas, there is little risk in endorsing Steve Lonegan.

Although the 7th District- located in the northwestern part of the state north of Trenton- takes in some conservative territory, it also has some liberal population areas.  Thus, incumbent Leonard Lance is considered a moderate Republican, or as his primary opponent David Larsen calls him, “your typical RINO.”  Not every vote will please conservatives every time out, but in many key areas he does vote or endorse the conservative solution (against the stimulus, against Obamacare, anti-EPA regulations of greenhouse gases as opposed to endorsing no offshore drilling, more money for cash for Clunkers, etc.).  The winner will be opposed by Democratic write-in candidate Janice Kovatch.  To this writer, write in candidates making the ballot (in this case, the only Democrat and thus a free ride to the general election) is a sign of somewhat strong grassroots support.  When they make the primary ballot and win, it is like a sling shot into the general election.  Given these dynamics, switching horses here is rife with pitfalls.  Therefore this writer endorses Leonard Lance.

The final primary will be in the 11th district currently represented by moderate Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, a name that goes way back in New Jersey history.  Centered in Morris county in the north central part of the state, a Democrat has not held this district since 1985.  While the district did go for Romney in 2012, the margin was less than McCain’s margin in 2008.  Cook rates this district +6 Republican while this writer rates it slightly less at 4.5 Republican.  He will be opposed by political neophyte Rick Van Glanh who promises to wage a spartan campaign against Frelinghuysen.  This is not a targeted district on behalf of the Democratic Party.  Should Van Glanh win the primary, rest assured they WILL target the district.  Hence, why should the GOP place itself in a vulnerable position here?  Therefore, this may be another instance where people may have to bite the bullet and support the perhaps-not-most-conservative candidate in order to ensure electoral victory.  This writer supports Rodney Frelinghuysen.