The two leading Republican candidates for Mike Ferguson's House seat have declined to run, with Assembly Minority Whip Jon Bramnick saying this morning that he will not be a candidate for Congress in 2008.
State Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr. announced yesterday that he would not run, citing his election less than two weeks ago as the new Senate Minority Leader.
"I spent a sleepless night last night thinking about this. The question is, 'Do you give up the leadership role you've developed in your own state?' I didn't want to make the call. It's logical to move up. But right now, the answer to that question is no," said Bramnick, who was elected Assembly Minority Whip earlier this year.
Even as he spoke this morning, Bramnick admitted to being very torn about making the call.
Bramnick had also been mulling a bid for the U.S. Senate, and said he would not seek that office either.
His decision not to run for an open seat in a district the Republicans have held since 1956 leaves the GOP without a strong contender for an open seat. So far, only former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Christopher Venis, a lobbyist and ex-political operative, has entered the race. Venis was not on the list of potential candidates offered by Somerset County GOP Chairman Dale Florio yesterday.
Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, who will be replaced in leadership by Kean in January, could emerge as a leading candidate to succeed Ferguson. Lance comes from Hunterdon County, which cast the largest number of votes in the 2006 primary in a district that includes parts of Union, Somerset and Middlesex counties.
The unexpected retirement of the 37-year-old Ferguson leaves his 2006 opponent, Assemblywoman Linda Stender, in a race for an open House seat. Ferguson defeated Stender last year by a margin of just one percent.
Yesterday, Republicans had expected Bramnick, an Assemblyman since 2003, to make the race.
But Bramnick said he could be more effective in Trenton as the leader of the opposition party at this time.
"There's a big difference between federal and state politics. In Trenton, Democrats had a chance to govern and they did not do well. In Washington, everything hinges now on the economy and on the Iraq War," Bramnick told PolitickerNJ.com.
"I've built up businesses, and I know it takes time to get to a certain point where you feel as though you can make an impact. It would take a number of years in Congress for me to get to the point where I am now in Trenton, where I am the third ranking Republican, where I can make a difference."
The Assembly Republicans had already affixed a gold nameplate to the office door of their new whip, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.
"It's just a little $10 placard," Rick Wright, spokesman for the Assembly Republicans, said yesterday. "But if he goes, it would be a big loss for us. People love him here."