Five of seven Democratic Congressmen would be interested in succeeding Lautenberg

They may not be the top fundraisers in the state, but don’t count Bill Pascrell or Rush Holt out of seeking Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat if it ever opens up.

Both Congressmen were careful about the wording of their ambitions, stressing that they fully support Frank Lautenberg and that the idea of an open Senate seat is purely hypothetical. But neither would rule out seeking the seat if it does open up.

While Holt and Pascrell’s fundraising totals are in the middle of the pack for New Jersey Congressmen, they’re nothing to sneeze at for incumbents who aren’t likely to face a competitive race in 2008. Pascrell has amassed a little over $1 million, while Holt has about $630,000 in the bank.

If Lautenberg’s seat were to open up today, five out of seven of the state’s Democratic Congressmen would want to be considered as a replacement. Frank Pallone, Rob Andrews and Steve Rothman have also acknowledged an interest in the seat.

Holt stressed that he’s never made a secret of his desire to join the Senate – where his father served as the Senator from West Virginia in the 1930’s — but noted that one does is not likely to open up any time soon. Nevertheless, Holt said he has the ability to raise a lot of money in a short period of time.

“There is one and only one candidate for senate right now, and he’s a good one,” said Holt, adding “I have a great fundraising record. I run a frugal campaign and I raise as much money as I need….I think I’ve demonstrated a fundraising ability that is probably second to none, but I don’t raise money for the sake of raising money.”

A spokesman for Pascrell took a similar tone.

“The Congressman is confident that Frank Lautenberg isn’t going anywhere, and he plans on playing an intricate part in his reelection,” said Pascrell spokesman Caley Gray. “If anything were to happen, the Congressman hasn’t ruled anything out.”

Staff for ten-term incumbent Donald Payne confirmed that he does not have an interest in the seat, while freshman Rep. Albio Sires said that he wouldn’t venture to put his name into consideration for the seat, as he needs to develop more experience.

“I wouldn’t say in the future it’s not something I want to do, but I have to get more experience,” said Sires. “I have experience in New Jersey, but I don’t have experience in Washington.”

Sires has more pressing matters to attend to, as he’s caught up in a Hudson County political war and may find himself in a competitive primary in 2008. Of all thirteen New Jersey Congressmen, Sires has the least cash-on-hand – about $57,000, according to the last report. But Sires said he’s raised more money since filing and will continue to do so .

“If we have to raise $2 million, we’ll raise $2 million,” said Sires. “I’ve been known to be a good fundraiser.”

  Five of seven Democratic Congressmen would be interested in succeeding Lautenberg