Will Mennen says he spoke with his family over the Thanksgiving break, and they are supportive of his efforts to seek the 7th district U.S. Congressional seat – in the event he decides to run.
"I'm trying to be deliberative about this, because I only want to make this decision once," said the Tewksbury attorney and freeholder-elect. "I'm the type of guy, when I'm in it, I'm in it. That's 110%."
Mennen could be emerging as Hunterdon County's alternative to Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, who is also strongly leaning toward running for the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson. But Mennen said he had conversations with Lance last week and acknowledged today that what the minority leader ends up doing might affect his own decision.
"Leonard Lance is a class act who has a lot to offer," Mennen said.
When all four counties are factored in, the race has the makings of a regional primary war for the GOP.
In Somerset County, Republican Chairman Dale Florio said today that the candidates in his region who have reached out to him personally and expressed interest in the 7th district seat are Assemblyman Pete Biondi, Freeholder Jack Ciatarrelli, and Kate Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman. Middlesex absorbs a significantly smaller number of Republican voters in the 7th than the other three counties, and is likely not to yield a strong contender.
In Union County, the announcements last week by Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr., and Assembly Whip Jon Bramnick that they would not pursue the seat leaves Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks as the most vocal Union politician in the early running. Marks argues that his ability to compete with Democratic nominee Assemblywoman Linda Stender on her home turf sets him apart from the other emerging candidates.
Mennen took issue with that.
"I'm not sure that being from the same venue as an opponent from the other party gives you a leg up," he said. "The district is made up of four counties. What does that say about the other counties?"
Mennen refused to position himself as the conservatives' answer to Lance, who is often depicted as too moderate to satisfy the rightward wing of the party.
"Instead of focusing on other guys, I try to enunciate my own message," said Mennen. "Frankly, competition brings out the best in everybody. Voters will have a plethora of good choices as right now we're witnessing the strength and depth of the Republican Party."