The best race in New Jersey this year turned out to be in the seventh congressional district, where the same national issues that helped Democrats capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives nearly ended Republican Michael Ferguson’s political career. Ferguson defeated Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender by a narrow 49%-48% margin, winning a fourth term by just 3,259 votes out of 193,272 cast. Two Indepedent candidates combined for 5,053 votes. Ferguson carried Hunterdon County by 5,710 votes (56%-40%) and Somerset County by just 3,232 votes (52%-46%), while Stender carried Union County by a 717 vote margin (50%-49%) and Middlesex County by 4,966 votes (56%-41%). Ferguson was one of the Republicans in Congress who recognized the potential for a tough race early enough to avoid being taken by surprise, and Democrats never really added Stender to their list seats they seriously though they could win. Stender could run again in 2008, but unless the political environment stays the same or gets worse over the next two years, Ferguson is not likely to have future electoral problems under the current map. (In the very Republican year of 1980, Marie Muhler won 49% of the vote against seven-term Democratic Congressman James Howard, but as the climate shifted away from the GOP, she won just 36% in her 1982 rematch.) One Democratic leader wondered, albeit prematurely, whether Stender’s strong showing and the upset defeat of Linden Mayor John Gregorio could create an opportunity for Stender to replace Nicholas Scutari as the State Senator in the 22nd district next year. Stender wanted that seat in 2003 when Joseph Suliga ended his re-election campaign, but Gregorio insisted on Scutari instead.