Voting at Seton Hall Preperatory School in West Orange, Senate President Dick Codey was the center of attention, drawing a small media contingent to watch him enter and leave the booth. Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, on the other hand, didn’t get much attention.
It was a contrast in celebrity.
“Tell Senator Codey I’m envious,” joked Lance.
But the two have one thing in common – there’s been speculation that they could lose their leadership positions in the Senate.
Speculation is rife that if south Jersey Democrats succeed in ousting two Republicans in districts one and two — and if Ellen Karcher loses to Jennifer Beck in district 12 — then South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross could throw his weight behind putting someone else in Codey’s place. On the Republican end, there’s been talk for months that Tom Kean, Jr. is interested in succeeding Lance as Senate Minority Leader.
Codey, however, dismissed speculation that he’s at all vulnerable. Although his Senate Leadership PAC donated over $1 million to Jim Whelan’s state Senate campaign in the second district – more money than he has ever spent in south Jersey before — Codey insisted that it had nothing to do with securing his leadership position.
“I expect him to win, that’s what it’s about. There are only a few competitive districts in the state and we’re going to play with the money depending on where people are in the polls…. it’s as simple of that,” said Codey. “Why do you take calls from those jerks?”
In sharp contrast, Lance took a much less defiant tone when talking about his leadership prospects. Last month, PoliticsNJ.com reported that Kean would take over the position without a fight, and that Lance would take over retiring Sen. Robert Littell’s seat as the ranking Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Lance said that he had not discussed the matter with Kean, but left the door wide open.
“Certainly I believe that Tom is an integral part of our leadership team and a close friend, and let me say that I am very much interested in the budget process, and Senator Littell is leaving the legislature after serving there longer in the state’s history,” said Lance. “I’ve been in the Assembly or Senate for sixteen years and it’s the area of government that interests me most.”
Meanwhile, both men say they are concentrating on their candidates, and most of all the race in the 12th district. Prior to voting, Codey had spent part of the afternoon on a diner tour with Karcher. Lance was still in Hunterdon County, but said he might end up with Beck this evening.
Lance said that the 2001 reapportionment had hurt the Republicans’ chance at winning, but that their message will prevail.
“I just feel like the districts are skewed in favor of the Democratic Party – they control the legislature and have a tremendous financial advantage,” said Lance. “Having said that, our message this year is much stronger than the Democrats’, and I think message will trump money, and the greatest example of that is Jennifer Beck in district 12.”
Codey said that reapportionment hurt the Democrats in the 1990s.
“It was stacked against Democrats yet we were receiving more votes than Republican candidates and we were the state minority. Now we’ve got 22-18 – that’s obviously reflective of the population and how they vote. More people vote Democratic in the state than Republican,” said Codey. “That’s life – it’s a blue state. Blue, baby, blue.”