Hunterdon line could go to Zimmer

The potential entrance of former Rep. Dick Zimmer into the U.S. Senate race could put at least one of state

The potential entrance of former Rep. Dick Zimmer into the U.S. Senate race could put at least one of state Sen. Joe Pennacchio’s county lines in jeopardy.

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Pennacchio won the Hunterdon County Republican Convention in February, earning preferential ballot placement in a county that produces a lot of primary votes. But Zimmer owns a farm in the county, where he lived when he represented the 12th district in Congress during the 1990s.

If Zimmer does get into the race, Hunterdon County Republican Chairman Henry Kuhl plans to call a county committee meeting for April 16th to vote on whether or not to change the county committee’s endorsement. If Zimmer wins that, he’ll get the coveted county line.

Kuhl said that he hasn’t personally endorsed anyone yet. Even after many county chairs jumped on board with Andy Unanue – who is expected to formally drop out of the race today – Kuhl remained neutral.

“I declined to endorse Andy whatever-his-name-is. In my opinion he did not have the fire in the belly to want to be a candidate,” Kuhl said.

Kuhl said that he plans to withhold his personal endorsement for a candidate until the meeting, but that he’s found a loyal friend in Kuhl in years past.

In 1998, when Kuhl faced a challenge for his chairmanship, Zimmer lobbied for him and spoke in favor of him at the convention.

“His last words of that presentation were ‘Keep Kuhl,’” he said. “I think that almost all of the Hunterdon County Republican Committee would probably lean strongly towards Dick Zimmer. We know him…. I think there will be a strong response to him in this county.”

Pennacchio, who until recently has hidden any frustration at the lack of establishment support for his candidacy behind a calm veneer and an appeal to talk about policy issues, couldn’t avoid being irritated at the prospect of losing a county line.

“What do you do with the people that when we had a fair and square election on the county committee that night voted for me? Do we always have do-overs in elections? Is that what this party has degenerated to?” he said. “At some point the average person will see that the sense of fairness in the process is being circumvented… I don’t have to answer to that because I’ve been fair and honest in my whole approach to the process, but some people might have to.”

Hunterdon line could go to Zimmer