Gregg preparing for challenge to Littell

Republican sources in Northwestern New Jersey say that Assemblyman Guy Gregg is leaning toward a bid for the State Senate against longtime incumbent Robert Littell in the GOP primary. Littell has not yet announced his plans for the 2007 campaign, although one GOP leader close to his family says that he plans to seek 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 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. A Littell/Gregg primary will open up an Assembly seat, and a Gregg/McHose primary would create two open seats.

Gregg preparing for challenge to Littell