Open House seats: GOP keeps the less Republican one

Of the two New Jersey congressional districts where Republican incumbents did not seek re-election this year, the third district in parts of Ocean, Burlington and Camden counties is arguably more Republican than the seventh district, which includes parts of Hunterdon, Somerset, Union and Middlesex counties. In District 3, Jim Saxton won 58% of the vote in 2006 and 63% in 2004; George W. Bush won with 51% in 2004. In the 7th, Mike Ferguson nearly lost his 2006 re-election bid to Democrat Linda Stender, 49%-48%, after winning 57% in 2004; Bush won 53% four years ago. Republicans have held the Saxton seat since 1884 and the Ferguson seat since 1956.

But is was the 7th that held for the Republicans amidst a national tide of marginally Republican House districts flipping to the Democrats. State Sen. Leonard Lance bucked the trend and defeated Stender, who had been campaigning for three years, by nine percentage points. Republicans lost in the 3rd, where State Sen John Adler beat Republican Christopher Myers, the Mayor of Medford, by four points, 51%-48%.

Some of the credit for Lance’s win goes to Jamestown Associates, a Princeton-based political consulting firm that seems to have scored some key victories in Blue Jersey. Jamestown did the direct mail for Salem County Freeholder, where Republicans picked up a Democratic seat; in neighboring Cumberland County, the GOP lost a Freeholder seat and the incumbent Sheriff and Surrogate were defeated. In Ocean County, the Jamestown-run campaign won clear,decisive victories in three countywide races, including a 53%-47% win for County Clerk Carl Block, who faced a tough opponent in Berkeley Township Mayor Jason Varano, who was the recipient of campaign funds from Democrats all over the state, including Gov. Jon Corzine. Democrats went on TV and radio before the GOP did, and while Ocean is solidly Republican, this race was hardly a cakewalk. They also had to deal with direct mail coming from a renegade GOP faction that was pushing for the defeat of the incumbents. Ocean Republicans won, while Republicans lost races for Freeholder (two seats in Burlington) and possibly Monmouth, where Democrats hold an 18 vote lead in their bid to win majority control.

Another Jamestown race worth mentioning: a hotly contested campaign for Middletown Township Committee, where the GOP won by more than 5,000 votes.