If Lance wins, Doherty vs. Karrow is the race to watch

If Leonard Lance wins his race for Congress, expect a highly competitive special election convention next January for his State Senate seat between Assemblyman Michael Doherty and Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow. (Doherty said last January that he'll run for the Senate if the seat opens up; indeed, he explored a primary challenge to Lance in 2007.)

Karrow comes from Hunterdon County, which has the largest block of votes, and Doherty, one of the most conservative members of the Legislature, is from Warren; both parties have splits that would allow another candidate to pick up votes. Look for Lance to stay out of the race. And look for a free-for-all special election to fill the vacant Assembly

A Karrow victory in January 2009 would not preclude Doherty from challenging her in the June 2009 GOP primary, although he would have to give up his Assembly seat to do so. Doherty has publicly flirted with numerous opportunities to run for higher office, but had declined each time. Still, he was the top vote getter in the last four Assembly primaries and would make a formidable candidate.

Karrow may already be checking out the Senate; she showed up at a recent private meeting between former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele and the Senate Republican Caucus as the guest of Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. Steele reportedly referred to her several times as "Senator." If Lance wins, Doherty vs. Karrow is the race to watch