Awaiting word from Crowley, Mercer GOP holds off endorsement in U.S. Senate race

Mercer County Republicans voted to postpone the endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate tonight and will wait and see if biotech millionaire John Crowley decides to enter the race.

“We have two new candidates, one from Mercer County,” said Mercer County GOP Chairman Roy Wesley. “So it’s almost like we have one of our own who we need to give some consideration to.”

Crowley, 39, was a Bristol-Myers Squibb executive eleven years ago when he found out his 15-month-old daughter and four-month-old son had a rare and fatal neuromuscular disease. He wound up leaving to head up a series of biotech firms and has raised a reported $200 million for research of genetic diseases. Harrison Ford is expected to play Crowley in a film about his life.

In an informal vote, taken by a show of hands, Mercer Republicans overwhelmingly supported deferring a formal endorsement in the Senate race, and authorized the party’s executive committee to award the organization line sometime before the April 7 filing deadline.

State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and Ramapo College Professor Murray Sabrin attended the convention. A third candidate, millionaire businessman Andy Unanue, is vacationing in Vail.

Sabrin outlined his experience as an economist to show that he’d be best for the job, and complained that not one Senator was doing anything to address the fiscal deficit.

“There’s no one running in this race who has my track record of being forthright and prophetic about what’s happening to this country because we’ve lost our way,” said the New Jersey campaign chairman for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.

Pennacchio gave an abbreviated version of his usual stump speech, invoking memories of Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. But he also addressed his strategy of running especially hard in overwhelmingly Democratic counties like the one he visited tonight – even if the entry of a native candidate makes it tougher for him to win the line here.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do in Mercer County but I promise you one thing I can do in Mercer Ccounty,” he said. “I’m still going to campaign in Mercer, Middlesex, Bergen, in Essex — in those blue counties.”

The committee also voted to support Rep. Chris Smith for re-election to a 15th term in Congress. In the face of a potentially spirited campaign by Democrat Josh Zeitz, Smith pointed to what he said was flagging support for Democrats this year, and pointed to Republican gains in Hamilton in 2007 as evidence that 2008 will be a good year for Republicans.

“Not only have they dipped dramatically in the polls, but I think people are on to them,” he said, referring to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Also present was Jim McSorley, a Hamilton resident who retired as a State Trooper last year and has spent the last six months working as Smith’s public policy director. McSorley resigned today to run for Mercer County Sheriff, and was awarded with the county line tonight.

McSorley pledged that he wouldn’t be just a token Republican challenger to Larkin, who he dismissed as an ineffective machine candidate, even though Democrats control all of the countywide offices. McSorley gave a frank speech in which he touted his humility, “obedience” to the people of Mercer and 25 years as a state trooper.

“I’m a problem solver, I’m pretty good under pressure, I’m a very good debater and I know the issues that are affecting this race right now and I intend to take my opponent to task on them,” he said.

In the 12th district, Holmdel Deputy Mayor Alan Bateman got the party nod to run against Democratic incumbent Rush Holt, who he criticized for not advocating making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

The party’s freeholder candidates will be Cindy Randazzo, Tom White and Darren Chell, who will face Democrat Dan Benson for an unexpired term.

Awaiting word from Crowley, Mercer GOP holds off endorsement in U.S. Senate race