Gregg mulls challenge to Littell(s)

Assemblyman Guy Gregg is telling Republican leaders in Northwestern New Jersey that he will be a candidate for State Senator in the June 2007 primary — even if State Senator Robert Littell seeks re-election. The 70-year-old Littell, who began his 39th year in the Legislature last month, has had some health problems in recent years, and numerous GOP sources confirm that he wants to see his daughter, Assemblywoman Alison McHose, take his 24th district Senate seat. Gregg, 56, has been in the Assembly since 1994, when he won a Special Election Convention. He briefly sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2002, but dropped out on filing day when he was unable to raise enough money to compete. He served as Assembly Minority Conference Leader in 2004 and 2005, but lost his leadership post late last year after a split with Minority Leader (and fellow Morris County Republican) Alex DeCroce. Some Republicans say that Gregg, one of the “Mountain Men” — a group of more conservative GOP legislators — might have a better chance in a primary with Littell than in a contest against McHose. Littell’s voting record includes four decades of tax increases, and more recently, votes to support Governor James E. McGreevey’s budget and the controversial Highlands proposal. His 40-year-old daughter has compiled a more conservative record since winning a 2003 Special Election Convention following Scott Garrett’s election to Congress. Representing the Northwestern part of the state in the Senate has required considerable patience. Littell spent 22 years in the Assembly waiting out the career of Wayne Dumont, a former Senate President and gubernatorial candidate who held the seat for 36 years. Littell’s father, Alfred Littell, represented Sussex County in the Senate from 1943 to 1954. If McHose goes to the Senate, Gregg — no longer in the Assembly leadership — might be forced to spend the remainder of his political career in a sort of purgatory. Geography may be holding Greeg back: he lives in Morris County, which makes up just 25% of the GOP primary voters in the 24th district; 70% of the Republicans come from Sussex County (McHose’s base) and 5% come from Hunterdon — the only county of the three with an organization line. Gregg also knows not to take the Littell’s lightly: the Littell family (including the Senator’s wife, former Republican State Chairwoman Virginia Littell) have a reputation for running aggressive campaigns when the family business is threatened. This happened in 1991 and 1993, when George Daggett, a former Sussex County Prosecutor, challenged Littell in the GOP primary. Footnote: a Littell/Gregg primary will open up an Assembly seat, and a Gregg/McHose primary would create two open seats.McHose wins Assembly seat in 24th district special election convention By STEVE KORNACKI PoliticsNJ.com SPARTA, January 25 – It took two ballots, but Alison Littell McHose triumphed today in a 24th legislative district special election convention to replace E. Scott Garrett in the General Assembly. McHose will join her father, State Sen. Robert E. Littell (R-Franklin), in representing the district in Trenton. The victory came after McHose — who has run her father’s district legislative office for seven years — overcame a first ballot deficit to best Sussex County GOP chairman David Mortimer, 146-122. McHose credited her victory to “a real grass-roots effort” that included phone calls and door-to-door campaigning. The newest assemblywoman said she would bring her “core Republican values” to Trenton and said her years of service as a legislative aide will make the transition easy. Held at the Sussex County Technical Institute in Sparta, today’s convention attracted 270 Republican county committee members from Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon counties. The 24th is comprised of 31 communities and is the most geographically expansive in the state. It is also one of the most Republican. Garrett, who had served in the Assembly since 1990, resigned his seat earlier in the month after he was sworn into Congress. He attended part of the convention. The second ballot was necessary because no candidate received the 50 percent plus one required for victory on the initial ballot. In the first round of voting, Mortimer secured 108 votes, while McHose ran second with 85. The third candidate in the race, Sussex County Freeholder Susan Zellman, trailed the pack with 75 votes. She was dropped from the second ballot. Zellman said afterwards that she “suggested to people that they vote for Alison” on the second ballot. McHose said the two had reached “an understanding” as the first ballot voted were counted that if one of them was eliminated, she would back the other. Mortimer’s early ballot strength was due in part to his role as county chairman, a post that made him familiar to most county committee members before the race even started. His best hope, many observers said afterwards, was to win a majority on the first ballot. But he ran into trouble on the second ballot because of the McHose-Zellman alliance, and, some said, resentment from members of the Morris County delegation. Mortimer may have angered them this week when his backers challenged the seating of 11 Morris county committee members, on the grounds that they did not live in the towns they represented. But the Morris GOP fought the maneuver, and they were seated. Many in Morris viewed the effort to deny the committee members seats as an effort by Mortimer to strengthen his own position. After the convention, Mortimer wouldn’t speculate if the seating controversy had affected his bid. Many believe Zellman won most of her votes in Morris. While no candidate claimed Morris as a home, Zellman used to live and hold office there, and had been active in the county’s affairs through her professional work. The debate over procedure threatened to taint the convention with controversy and accusations of unfair play. Possibly to quell any of such concerns, State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos, Jr. (R-Middletown), the Republican State Chairman, served as the chairman of the convention, and the state GOP’s legal counsel, Peter Sheridan, was the parliamentarian. McHose acknowledged the boost Zellman’s backing gave her, but said her win was due largely to her ability to convince county committee members that she had the best background and experience for the job. “This campaign was positive the whole way through,” she said. McHose will fill the remainder of Garrett’s term, which expires next January. She will stand for election as part of the 24th’s GOP ticket this fall — assuming she received the party’s nomination. Mortimer and Zellman still can challenge McHose in a Republican primary this spring, as can any other Republican in the district. And given the fact that he won a plurality of first ballot votes, many think Mortimer will opt to take that route. He wouldn’t answer questions about a possible primary campaign after the convention. But Zellman did rule out running in a primary, saying she will now focus on winning re-election this year to the freeholder board. “I want to continue to serve the people of Sussex County,” she said. As for the victor, McHose said afterwards she hasn’t had a chance to think about a primary challenge, and that she has no plans yet to ask Mortimer not to run. “I’m not at that point yet,” she said. Steve Kornacki can be reached at kornackinj@aol.com

Gregg mulls challenge to Littell(s)