Nicholas Asselta, a Republican State Senator from Cumberland County, continues to be a wild card. In 2003, Asselta ran unopposed for an open Senate seat, in a highly competitive district where Democrats unseated a GOP Assemblyman and came within 481 votes of ousting Republican Senator James Cafiero two years earlier. At the time, there were allegations of a deal that allowed Asselta to avoid a challenge from Democratic Assemblyman Jefferson Van Drew in exchange for Van Drew getting a pass on his bid for a second term. There was also considerable speculation that Asselta, whose ties to the New Jersey AFL-CIO are as strong as any legislator, would switch parties if Democrats needed his vote to organize the Senate. (During his campaign, the Senate was split 20-20, but Democrats picked up two seats in 2003 to win majority control.) The possiblity that Asselta could switch remains an active ingredient in Democratic plans to maintain control in the 2007 mid-term election. One of the things that keeps Asselta on the Republican side of the chamber is his strong desire to someday succeed his close friend, Frank LoBiondo, in Congress. The problem for the 55-year-old Asselta is that LoBiondo, 60, shows no sign of leaving. When LoBiondo first ran in 1994 (against Bill Gormley in the primary and Louis Magazzu in the general), he pledged to limit himself to six terms. But in 2003, he announced that he had changed his mind on term limits and planned to continue his congressional career beyond 2006. LoBiondo has passed on opportunities to run statewide four times, and he is giving no indications of considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2008. That leaves Asselta stuck in a minority party caucus, representing a region of the state that is becoming increasingly more Democratic. There have been rumors recently that Asselta is under consideration for a high-paying job at the Delaware River Port Authority, which would give Democrats an edge in picking up the first district Senate seat with Van Drew as their candidate. But a source close to the Republican Senator says that Asselta is running for re-election to a second term next year and that he has not had discussions, “directly or indirectly” about any government job, including the DRPA. The Cape May County GOP have pledged to make a strong move to defeat the two Democratic Assemblymen, Van Drew and Nelson Albano, who upset veteran Republican Jack Gibson in 2005. Among their possible candidates, on a slate headed by Asselta, are Cape May County Freeholder (and Sea Isle City Mayor) Leonard Desiderio, and Norris Clark, a former national spokesman for Ross Perot’s presidential campaign and the cousin of former Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Curtis Bashaw.