The field of potential Republican candidates to replace Jim Saxton next year is still large, but a few of the names first floated have removed themselves from consideration.
Burlington County Freeholder Bill Haines's name came up as soon as Saxton announced his retirement, but he said today that he won't be running.
"I'll probably wait and see who declares an interest, but Diane is a very good friend of mine, so I certainly would support her."
Also out of the picture in Burlington County are County Clerk/state Senator elect Phil Haines and Sheriff Jean Stanfield.
State Sen. Diane Allen emerged early as the favorite to win the nomination – if, that is, former GOP State Chairman David Norcross decides not to run.
David Norcross, who has the fundraising prowess and political wherewithal to give Allen a run for her money, could not be reached for comment.
Freeholder Aubrey Fenton, who was glowingly referenced by GOP boss Glenn Paulsen over the weekend, said that he had ignored all political calls over the weekend and was just grappling with the prospect of running now.
"I'm as flattered as anybody could be for their name being put in contention," said Fenton. "Everyone has a responsibility to evaluate (running and that's where that is – it's something to be explored."
Former Yankees/Mets pitcher Al Leiter and County Clerk Carl Block.
Still potentially in:
Freeholders Jack Kelly, Gerry Little and Joe Vicari all put their names into consideration, along with Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and former Assemblywoman Virginia Haines, New Jersey's Republican National Committeewoman.
Vicari, superintendent of the Berkeley school district, mentioned that he went in front of a screening committee two years ago just in case Saxton decided not to seek reelection. Now he's confident that he can win the backing of the party in Ocean County, and if he has to run against Diane Allen in a primary, so be it.
"Ocean County is about 50% of what's needed to win in a primary," said Vicari. "I know Ms. Allen will probably run and it's a healthy thing to get people involved. The best person should win who has the experience and qualifications to represent the district."
State Senator-elect Chris Connors and Assemblyman Jim Holzapfel, who are both said to be interested in running, could not be reached for comment.