Two candidates seeking votes for Samerjan’s job

The race for Executive Director of the Senate Republicans is already taking shape, with at least two potential candidates already calling Senators seeking support for the $140,730-a-year staff post. Rick England, a longtime Senate aide and political strategist who has been around the upper house since Donald DiFrancesco ran the Senate, and lame duck Assemblyman Guy Gregg are both campaigning for the job currently held by John Samerjan.

The assumption is that the current Minority Leader, Leonard Lance, lacks the votes to win another leadership contest; the job is widely expected to go to the current Minority Whip, Thomas Kean, Jr. Kean, sources say, has made it clear that he intends to fire Samerjan if he is Minority Leader. Ultimately, candidates like England and Gregg must win just one vote — Kean — but endorsements within the Republican caucus would be most helpful.

England managed Douglas Forrester’s gubernatorial campaign in 2005, and is viewed as the political operative on the Senate staff. Gregg, a conservative seven-term Assemblyman, must leave the Legislature in January; he lost a bitter Republican primary for State Senate in June to Steven Oroho, who may not want his old rival at his side in Trenton.

One insider suggested that Kean might look to Evan Kozlow as a possible candidate for the post. Kozlow, a former Republican State Committee Executive Director and Chief of Staff to Congressman Scott Garrett, managed Kean’s 2006 U.S. Senate race. But Kozlow has a top job at the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington and might be reluctant to give that up and move his family back to New Jersey.