Speculation that State Sen. Bill Baroni could become the next U.S. Attorney if John McCain wins the presidency has created some discussion among Democrats about who they would support in a 2009 special election to fill his seat. If Baroni were to resign, Republicans would hold a special election convention to elect a new Senator – possibly former Hamilton Mayor Jack Rafferty – who could then (depending on the timing of the appointment) face a Democrat in a November 2009 special election. One Mercer County Democratic leader said that former Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore could emerge as a serious contender, suggesting that his local popularity is on the upswing after narrowly losing last year to Republican John Bencivengo.
The problem for Gilmore, if he decides to pursue a political comeback as a State Senate candidate, is that the local Democratic bench is wide and deep. Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein passed on a Senate bid 2007 (when Peter Inverso announced his retirement) after several key labor unions quickly endorsed Baroni. Greenstein, the top vote getter in the ’07 Assembly race and with a significant base in Middlesex County, is unlikely to back down from another Senate fight.
Democrats in Hamilton Township might be reluctant to give up the Senate seat their town has held since Francis McManimon won a newly-created legislative district in 1981 – especially since they have no shortage of candidates and a majority of Democratic primary voters in the Mercer County portion of the district. Freshman Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, a Democrat who won Baroni’s Assembly seat last year, might be hesitant to defer to Greenstein, according to local Democrats. And two others, Daniel Benson and John Cimino, could also emerge as Senate candidates – or Assembly candidates, if Greenstein or DeAngelo were to run. Benson, a former Hamilton Council President who lost an Assembly bid in 2005, won a special election convention for Mercer County Freeholder earlier this year. He has no fondness for Greenstein, who was a less than cooperative running mate in the Assembly race and then backed DeAngelo in a close convention contest last year. Cimino, the son of former Assemblyman Anthony “Skip” Cimino, lost a Hamilton Council race, but is now the Democratic candidate for Freeholder in safe-Democratic Mercer County.