GOP control of the Senate not impossible

The bi-partisan consensus among New Jersey pundits seems to be that Assembly Republicans are not likely to be positioned to capture control of the lower house in 2007 — but that while Democrats are also strongly favored to hold the Senate, GOP control — or at least shared control — is not impossible. Republicans could potentially compete for Senate seats currently held by Democrats Frederick Madden (District 4), Ellen Karcher (District 12) and Paul Sarlo (District 36). They would need to win all three to win a majority, and two for a return to the shared control of 2002-03. It would be substantially more difficult for the Republicans to compete against Senators Stephen Sweeney (District 3) and Joseph Coniglio (District 38). Democrats are also threatening to mount a strong challenge to Senator Bill Gormley (District 2), and for the seat of retiring Senator Joseph Palaia (District 11). Look for another highly competitive race in the 14th district if GOP Senator Peter Inverso retires. GOP success will likely hinge on candidate recruitment. Their top choice in the fourth district — if Madden doesn’t seek re-election, Democrats would likely pick Assemblyman/Washington Township Mayor Paul Moriarty — is state Administrative Law Judge George Geist, who spent twelve years in the Legislature before losing to Madden by just 63 votes in 2003. Against Karcher, Republicans want to run freshman Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck. The strongest possible GOP contenders against Sarlo are former Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano, who left the Legislature in 2005 to run for Governor, and Nutley Mayor Joanne Cocchiola — but neither seem to be actively looking to run. Some Republicans list Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan as a possible candidate — she wanted to run in 2003, but state Republicans preferred former Assemblyman John Kelly — but she was weakened a bit by her losing bid in the ’06 GOP primary for Bergen County Executive. One interesting candidate against Sarlo would be Superior Court Judge Harold Hollenbeck, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of seventy in December 2008. Hollenbeck served as a State Senator from 1972 to 1974, and as a Congressman from 1977 to 1983 (he lost his seat to Bob Torricelli.) Hollenbeck now lives in Ridgewood — his base was in Rutherford — and would have to move back to South Bergen to make the race.

GOP control of the Senate not impossible