LoBiondo has a huge stake in key Senate races

One of the biggest stakeholders in next week’s mid-term election is seven-term Republican Congressman Frank LoBiondo, who played a key role in Sonny McCullough’s victory over Frank Blee in a February 2007 Special Election Convention for State Senator.

LoBiondo’s political fortunes are also closely tied to the success of his close friend, State Senator Nicholas Asselta; polling from both parties shows the incumbent trailing. Maryannie Harper, LoBiondo’s longtime Chief of Staff, is on a leave of absence to run Asselta’s campaign.

Losses by Asselta and McCullough would be bad news for LoBiondo at a time when national Democrats are giving serious consideration to targeting the congressional seat he has held since 1995. Democrats want Van Drew to run.

If James Whelan is successful in his bid for State Senator in Atlantic County, Republicans will spend years speculating how the race would have gone if they had nominated Blee instead. Blee ran for the Senate last February after William Gormley retired, but lost to McCullough by a 61%-39% margin. Some insiders from both parties say that Blee would have been a stronger general election candidate. McCullough is battling in a general election without a unified party – Gormley (unofficially and effectively) and Blee (officially) are for Whelan.

Some Republican insiders, perhaps preparing for a victory by Democrat Jefferson Van Drew in the first district Senate race, are suggesting that a loss next week would not end Asselta’s political career. If Democrats capture one of the two Assembly seats, look for Asselta, who clearly would be unhappy with life outside the Legislature, to run for his old Assembly seat in 2009.

If Asselta loses his re-election bid, he would become the first Senator from Cape May or Cumberland counties to be unseated under the current state Constitution. A loss by McCullough would be the first by an Atlantic County Senator since 1977, when Joseph McGahn, ousted by Democrats, ran as an Independent and lost to Steven Perskie. McGahn had won his Senate seat six years earlier by defeating the legendary Atlantic County political boss, Frank “Hap” Farley. LoBiondo has a huge stake in key Senate races