Sean Kean is said to be front runner for Palaia’s Senate seat

The two Republican Assemblymen from the eleventh district have never been very close — Steve Corodemus worked fairly hard to defeat Sean Kean in a 2002 Special Election Convention after the death of Thomas Smith — and the relationship became even more competitive in September 2004, when longtime State Senator Joseph Palaia announced that he would not seek re-election in 2007. Palaia’s early announcement created a three-year contest for an open Senate seat that by all accounts created some internal problems in running a competitive re-election campaign in 2005. There is little chance of a Corodemus vs. Kean primary; party insiders say the contest will be decided at an open GOP convention — if it goes that far — and that the loser will keep his Assembly seat. And several Republican insiders with an ability to count County Committee votes say that Kean seems to have become the front runner over Corodemus, who was first elected in 1991. Kean seems to have been more aggressive in courting potential delegates — and filling County Committee seats — over the past three years, and appears to have a fundraising edge. One state Republican leader told that Kean, who won several key labor endorsements in his last re-election campaign, seems to be a safer bet for the GOP in a district where Democrats have pledged to spend money next year. Possible Democratic candidates for Palaia’s seat include former Assemblyman John Villapiano, who lost to Corodemus in the 1991 GOP landslide, and ’05 Assembly candidate Matthew Doherty, now a candidate for Belmar Councilman.