New Jersey’s 2006 electoral contests will be dominated by a United States Senate race, a battle for Mayor of Newark, a potentially competitive campaign for Bergen County Executive, and some borderline fun campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. SENATE Democrat Robert Menendez will take office as a United States Senator later this month, and is expected to face Republican State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr., the son of the former Governor, in the November general election. Two Democratic Congressmen, Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone, Jr., are still mulling a challenge to Menendez in the Democratic primary. Kean seems to have cleared the GOP field, although some conservatives are still searching for a viable (or even not viable) candidate to challenge Kean for the nomination. U.S. CONGRESS The only open House seat so far is in the 13th district, where Bob Menendez is giving up his seat to go to the United States Senate. Insiders say that the new Governor, Jon Corzine, is unlikely to call a Special Election, which will leave the Hudson-Essex-Union-Middlesex seat vacant until the results of the November 2006 election are certified. The front runner for the Menendez seat is Assembly Speaker Albio Sires, who already has the backing of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Sires’ main rival is Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas, a two-term State Assemblyman. Steven Fulop, a young Jersey City Councilman who challenged Menendez in the 2004 primary, is also mulling a House bid. There has been some speculation that Rob Andrews, passed over for a U.S. Senate appointment, will not seek re-election to his 1st district House seat this year. Andrews has been in Congress since 1990 and may be ready to give up elected office to pursue more lucrative private sector opportunities. If Andrews retires, look for a fantastic intra-party battle between State Senator Stephen Sweeney, the Gloucester County Freehodler Director, and Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald of Camden County. The Democratic nomination is tantamount to victory in the 1st and 13th districts. District 2: 24-year-old Robin Benjamin Weinstein, a Democratic operative and part-time preacher, has already announced that he will challenge five-term GOP Congressman Frank LoBiondo. Some South Jersey Democrats want Assemblyman Jefferson Van Drew, who won re-election last year in a massive landslide, to take on LoBiondo. District 3: Democrat Richard Sexton, a lawyer and Annapolis graduate who served as a Lt. Commander on the U.S. Enterprise destroyer, wants to take on eleven-term Republican Congressman Jim Saxton . District 5: Two Democrats are actively seeking party support to run against two-term GOP Congressman Scott Garrett: Dorothea Anne Wolfe, the former Bergen County Utilities Authority Chairwoman who ran in 2004; and Paul Aronsohn, a Pfizer executive who served as Press Secretary to Governor James E. McGreevey. District 6: Monmouth County Sheriff Joseph Oxley is mulling a challange to Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone, who has served since 1988. District 7: Three-term GOP Congressman Michael Ferguson will face either Assemblywoman Linda Stender, a Union County Democrat and former Fanwood Mayor, or Dr. Joseph Tricarico, the Assistant Commisisoner of Health and Senior Services and a former Mayor of Hillsborough. BERGEN COUNTY EXECUTIVE Democrat Dennis McNerney is expected to seek re-election to a second term as the Bergen County Executive. Former Freeholder Todd Caliguire, who ran for Governor in 2005, is viewed as the most likely Republican candidate. MAYOR OF NEWARK Sharpe James has still not announced whether he will seek re-election to an unprecedented sixth term and accept a rematch with former Councilman Cory Booker.