Justice Lance, Senator Doherty

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance’s vote to confirm Zulima Farber as state Attorney General has fueled speculation that he wants the next Republican seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Lance, who won a second term as Minority Leader in November against the more conservative Anthony Bucco, was one of four Republicans to support Farber, and has been among the few Republicans willing to extend Jon Corzine the courtesy of a traditonal honeymoon period as he settles into the governorship. Corzine will have at least two Supreme Court appointments over the next two years: the first later this year, when Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, a Republican, reaches the mandatory retirement age of seventy; and in 2007, when Justice James Zazzali, turns 70. There has been some talk that Corzine could promote one of the Democratic Associate Justices to Chief and name a Republican to Poritz’s seat — one candidate for Chief Justice is John Wallace, who was named to the Supreme Court in 2003 (he got the seat that was expected to go to Farber). Wallace, whose wife was a staffer in Corzine’s Senate office, could become the state’s first African American Chief Justice (not a bad move for a Governor with presidential aspirations), and the first South Jerseyan to hold the post under the current state Constitution. If Lance were to go to the Supreme Court this year, it would spark a hotly contested race for his 23rd district Senate seat. The front runner would be Assemblyman Michael Doherty, a Warren County Republican who is among the state’s most conservative legislators. But Hunterdon County, which has about 55% of the district’s population, may not be eager to cede the Senate seat. In a Special Election Convention, where only County Committee vote, newly-elected Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow, a former Hunterdon County Freeholder, could take advantage of a rare opportunity to run for the Senate without giving up an Assembly seat. Former Freeholder Frank Fuzo, who lost a primary campaign for Assembly to Karrow last year, could have more strength among County Committee members than he did with rank-and-file voters. Similarly, Doherty is more popular among voters in Warren County than he is with party regulars — perhaps the lingering effects of a bruising primary battle with former Assembly Speaker Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian in 2003.

Justice Lance, Senator Doherty