Mike Doherty will not seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Instead, Doherty, an Assemblyman from the 23rd district, will throw his support behind fellow Assemblyman Joe Pennacchio, who announced last month that he was also mulling a bid for the nomination.
Doherty told PoliticsNJ.com that the primary reason he chose not to run was that a three-way primary race would be a “suicide mission," with sniping between himself and Pennacchio making it easier for potential candidate Anne Estabrook to win the primary.
Doherty said he's more ideologically in tune with Pennacchio and called Estabrook a "Democrat light" who would not stand a chance against Frank Lautenberg.
“I talked to Joe. We’ve talked for a number of months, and we both think it would really be a problem if we got two conservatives running and it would open the door for Estabrook to win the nomination,” said Doherty.
A number of other factors also influenced Doherty's decision, including the fact that Pennacchio had dropped a potential Senate bid in 2005 to make way for Tom Kean, Jr. Doherty also said he wanted to devote more time to the private law practice he’s starting up.
“Let Joe go for it. He’s 52, I’m 44, he’s going to be up in the state Senate,” said Doherty. “I could see he’s really determined and passionate, that he wants to do it. What the heck.”
Doherty had formed an exploratory committee for his Senate run, tapping Rep. Scott Garrett and state Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance to head it. Pennacchio has not yet created an exploratory panel, but said today he may have one soon.
“With support from people like Assemblyman Doherty I believe we may be a step closer to establishing an exploratory committee for a 2008 run,” said Pennacchio, who called Doherty a "rising star."