The leading Democratic candidate for the open State Senate seat in the eleventh district appears to be John Villapiano, a former Assemblyman and Monmouth County Freeholder. Two other prospective candidates, Belmar Councilman Matthew Doherty and Assembly Democratic staffer James Reilly, have declined to run for the Senate. The seat is currently held by Republican Joseph Palaia, who is retiring after 26 years in the Legislature. Assemblyman Sean Kean is the likely Republican nominee. Villapiano, 55, won a 1988 Special Election to replace Dr. Anthony Villane, who resigned from the Assembly to become state Community Affairs Commissioner. He was re-elected in 1989, but lost in the 1991 Republican landslide to Steven Corodemus and Thomas Smith. His brother, Phil Villapiano, was an NFL linebacker for the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills from 1971 to 1983.