Former Democratic State Chairman Tom Byrne confirmed today that he’s seriously mulling a primary bid against incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Byrne, who works as a financial consultant and is the son of former Gov. Brendan Byrne (his full name is actually Brendan Thomas Byrne, Jr.), has already commissioned a poll on his prospects and expects to learn its results by Friday. He’ll make a decision on whether or not to run over the weekend.
“The big factor will be whether people think it’s time for a change,” said Byrne, who headed up the state Democratic party between 1994 and 1997.
In September, PolitickerNJ.com reported that Byrne wouldn’t rule out a primary challenge against Lautenberg.
Byrne said that his interest was piqued over the last couple weeks, during which several high ranking Democrats have encouraged him to run. He said that calls started coming in before Republicans tapped Andy Unanue, but have increased over the last week.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why some people have started to talk to me. You’d have to ask them, but I could see that being grounds for concern,” he said. “I think a lot of people weren’t focused on (the Senate race) and all of a sudden from very significant people in the party I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement to do it. So yes, I will poll it and I won’t have results until late Friday, so we’ll see what it says.”
Byrne considered a Senate bid in 2000, but decided not to run after Jon Corzine entered the race. But over the last eight years he’s left his campaign committee open, keeping $511,014 dollars in it, although the campaign committee also owes $190,000 in debt.
If he decides to run, Byrne said he’ll put another $500,000 into his campaign account and should be able to raise another half million from donors very quickly.
“I think I’d be at a million and a half very quickly. Then if people want change I would be prepared to do some more myself,” he said.
As of the last report filed with the Federal Election Commission, Frank Lautenberg has $4,321,776 cash on hand, with $2,090,000 in debt.
As of Monday, Byrne have just one week to file his petition.