Karcher, Panter won’t rule out ’11 Senate bids

There’s no question that the Democrats would love to take out rising Republican star Jennifer Beck in the 12th legislative district.

But with her reelection over three years away and redistricting coming up in 2010, none of the potential challengers on deck for her will even indicate that they’re thinking of taking her on. But they won’t rule it out either.

Former Assemblyman Mike Panter, who spent four years in the legislature before being ousted in a miniature Republican wave led by Beck in November – one largely blamed on a controversial farmland tax assessment break taken by former State Sen. Ellen Karcher – said he’s made a conscious effort not to think about politics this year.

“I really haven't given much thought to 2009 or beyond,” he wrote in an email exchange with PolitickerNJ.

But this Web site has reported that Panter may forego another try for his old Assembly seat, instead focusing on raising money and hoping that redistricting will bring the district back into the fold, making Beck more vulnerable to a Democratic challenge come 2011. Panter demurred from offering details about how he planned to help, writing only that “certainly a re-districting would make D-12 much more competitive.”

One thing that’s a possible scenario four years from now is a primary between Panter and Karcher for the state Senate seat in the district. The two are known to have had a tense relationship, and ran separate campaigns last year. But both professed respect for each other, and Panter didn’t blame Karcher for his narrow loss.

“Ellen Karcher has a very good heart and head, and probably took more lumps standing up for what she believed in than any other legislator in New Jersey,” he said. “We don't always agree, but I've never met two people who did 100% of the time.”

Karcher also downplayed the tension between herself and Panter.

“I think that’s what people projected on the relationship that Mike and I had,” she said.

Karcher said that she’s enjoying life outside of the legislature and hasn’t given any thought to returning. But she wouldn’t rule it out either.

“Today I’m working having my wiell fixed. Yesterday I brought my kids to their lessons and did what I needed to do with them. I’m going Raspberry picking, so that’s about as far ahead as I’m thinking. That’s my life in perspective right now,” she said last Thursday.

Karcher mentioned that another potential strong candidate for state Senate in 2011 is newly elected Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik. Karcher, Panter won’t rule out ’11 Senate bids