Senate GOP retirements could mean trouble for Lance

Kevin O'Toole wasted no time entering the race for an open State Senate seat in the 40th district, but that's not surprising: he has been plotting his return to the State Senate since he left the upper house in 2001. It was also no surprise that Wayne Mayor Scott Rumana would seek O'Toole's Assembly seat — that has also been the longtime deal. Republicans are waiting to see if O'Toole, Rumana, and nine-term Assemblyman David Russo get a free ride, or will they first need to get through a contested GOP primary. Douglas Doyle, a Wyckoff attorney whose law partner, former Attorney General Cary Edwards, held the seat from 1978 to 1982, has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

The first endorsement announced today by the O'Toole-Russo-Rumana team came from Senate Minority Whip Thomas Kean, Jr. — which will fuel speculation that he will challenge Leonard Lance for Minority Leader after the 2007 election. Kean has told some Republican leaders that he has been disappointed with Lance's performance.

The eight Republican retirements so far — one more means would mean a change of half the Senate GOP caucus — certainly endangers Lance's re-election prospects. Some of the retiring Senators were Lance supporters when he survived a challenge for his job from Anthony Bucco two years ago, and many of their most likely replacements appear to be more inclined to back someone else, like Kean.

Some Republican insiders suggest that while Lance will not have the votes for a third term as Minority Leader, Kean may not either.

Lance and Kean were on the same side in last month's Special Election Convention for the second district State Senator seat; both endorsed Frank Blee, who lost to James "Sonny" McCullough by a wide margin.

Senate GOP retirements could mean trouble for Lance