FLEMINGTON – State Sen. Leonard Lance flattened the other 7th Congressional district primary candidates in his home county tonight at a meeting of the Hunterdon County Republicans, and specifically targeted Kate Whitman in his speech to the county committee.
In his most animated remarks so far on the campaign trail, the former minority leader vowed to fight the terrorists and fight the Taliban, and quoted Lincoln’s "America is still the world’s last best hope on earth."
But he also took careful aim in returning fire at Whitman, who had boasted in her speech that she was raising more money than the other candidates.
"With all due respect," Whitman, a Somerset County resident, told her Hunterdon neighbors, "loyalty will not be enough to hold onto that seat." Then she urged then to "abandon that tradition" of voting for the resident county stalwart, in this case Lance.
Making his own case to the room packed with Republicans, Lance said a poll shows him with a double digit advantage over likely Democratic Party nominee Linda Stender, compared to Whitman’s single digit lead. That drew some applause.
"I’m the strongest fiscal conservative in the race," said Lance. "I voted against the pension bod issue, the school pension bond issue. I’m opposed to borrowing in order to monetize. I have a proven record of voting my conscience."
Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, has never held elected office.
Lance told PolitickerNJ.com that he favors the re-authorization of the Foreigh Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and would like to see the House pass the same measure that already passed in the U.S. Senate. He reiterated his belief that America should be on a glide-path out of Iraq, and does not believe in a "precipitous withdrawal."
Hunterdon County Republican Chairman Henry Kuhl was sheepish about reading the results of the election, and at first would only admit to the crowd that Lance had scored an "overwhelming" victory in landing the organization's endorsement and the ballot "A" line .
"Numbers," Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks urged, along with others in the audience, forcing Kuhl to break down finally and announce that Lance had drawn 68 votes, to Marks’ 7, Warren Mayor Victor Sordillo’s 4 , Whitman’s 2 and Iraq War veteran Thomas Roughneen’s 1.
Present in support of their legislative colleague were Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr., who sported a "Lance" sticker on his lapel, and Assemblyman Michael Doherty, who said his district collegaue is well known and principled. Joking about Lance's dominance in the room when it was her turn to speak, former Summit Councilwoman and microbiologist Dr. Kelly Hatfield said, "It's great to be in Lance country – I mean, Hunterdon County."
Other contestants in the 7th district congressional race include former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Chris Venis, Bridgewater Councilman Michael Hsing, and Seton Hall Business Professor A.D. Amar.
Each of the candidates spoke on Monday night, going in reverse alphabetical order. Whitman went first. Amar spoke last.