Multiple Republican sources say Andy Unanue is preparing to drop out of the Republican U.S. Senate race and will be replaced by former Congressman Dick Zimmer.
The arrangement is not final, but Unanue has reportedly agreed to drop his candidacy, while Zimmer has agreed to replace him.
Unanue’s three member committee on vacancies has until next Wednesday to officially change candidates.
Unanue could not be reached for comment, but Zimmer said that he has been contacted by several Republicans about the prospect and has agreed to run if he can count on a lot of support.
“I’ve received a number of phone calls from people who are interested in my running,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a done deal, and I’ve said that if asked I would run. I’m proud of my record of accomplishment as a Congressman, and I would like to put it up against Frank Lautenberg’s… If the party feels that I should be the candidate I would accept it.”
Zimmer, who served three terms in the 12th district from 1991-1997, lives and works as a lawyer/lobbyist in Washington but maintains a farm in Delaware Township. He decided to forego reelection in 1996 to run a Senate campaign against Robert Toricelli, losing by 10 points.
He cautioned that he has not been formally offered the slot.
“I once said that there’s no such thing as a political draft, but I was wrong,” he said.
If he does wind up running, Zimmer will face state Sen. Joe Pennacchio and Ramapo College prof. Murray Sabrin in the June primary.
Neither candidate seemed thrilled with the possibility.
Pennacchio called Zimmer the "candidate du jour."
“Some people – and I don’t call them leaders because they hide behind their anonymity –think the process should be that you anoint a candidate. Whoever wants to come in has to come in at the very beginning," he said.
Sabrin's campaign spokesman, George Ajjan, also expressed some frustration that the party establishment couldn't settle on one of its two other candidates.
"The failed party bosses have finally reached the letter Z in their rolodex," he said.