Frank Lautenberg is running for re-election, so the question of contested primaries for open House seats may be a moot issue. But if the 83-year-old U.S. Senator changes his mind, its possible that a number of Democratic Congressmen could take a shot – perhaps their final shot – at a seat in the United States Senate.
Since most New Jersey congressional districts are not necessarily competitive, it could be up to Democratic primary voters (if it even gets that far) to decide who the next Congressman would be. And in each district, there is no shortage of people who would be interested in going to Congress.
District 1: If Rob Andrews runs for the U.S. Senate, look for a contest between State Senator Stephen Sweeney, the de fact political boss of southwestern New Jersey, and Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald. The two expressed interest in late 2005, when Andrews was a possible candidate for Jon Corzine’s Senate seat.
District 6: A Senate bid by Frank Pallone could set up a contest between Democrats in Middlesex and Monmouth counties – a match up that would favor Middlesex, if the party organization could agree on a candidate. Look for State Senator Barbara Buono to be the front runner, although Edison Mayor Jun Choi and Assemblyman John Wisniewski – or Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, who comes from Somerset but represents a large part of Middlesex County – could run as well. That could create an opening for a Monmouth candidate, like State Senator Ellen Karcher and Assemblyman Michael Panter (who both technically live in the twelfth district). And Corzine could back his Deputy Chief of Staff, Maggie Moran, who expressed interest in succeeding Pallone in the past.
District 8: The conventional wisdom has been that Bill Pascrell, Jr. wants his son, lobbyist and Passaic County Counsel Bill Pascrell III, to succeed him, but in recent years, insiders have viewed that as increasingly less likely. Look at Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale as a possible candidate, along with Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and Assemblyman Gary Schaer. A split in Passaic could help an Essex candidate, like Assemblyman John McKeon. Former Governor Richard Codey lives in this district, but don't expect him to become a freshman Congressman.
District 9: Watch for a Democratic primary between State Senator Paul Sarlo and the uber-ambitious Mayor of Englewod, Michael Wildes; Wildes began raising money two years ago, just in case, and has $514,594 in a federal account. And don’t count out State Senator Loretta Weinberg, who has a huge base in a Democratic primary, or Steven Goldstein, who runs Garden State Equality.
District 12: Rush Holt’s bid for the U.S. Senate would open up what is perhaps the only potentially competitive Democratic House seat in the state. Look at Karcher and Panter from the Monmouth portion of the district, Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora from Mercer, or Chivukula from Somerset.