It’s a week after the election, and the dust has yet to settle on the race to take over the state Senate seat of Leonard Lance (R-Flemington). But one thing has been constant since Wednesday: Assemblyman Mike Doherty (R-Washington) is gunning hard for the seat, and has already started his door knocking campaign across pastoral Hunterdon and Warren Counties.
“I have my list and I have my Garmin, which certainly helps navigate some of our rural roads in the dark,” said Doherty.
There are roughly 400 county committee members from the two counties that comprise the 23rd Legislative District, and Doherty plans to visit every one of them (many are husband and wife teams, which helps cut down on the number of doors to knock on). Last night, he began his campaign, visiting committee members in Glen Gardner, Bethlehem and Hampton.
After Lance resigns his seat to move up to Congress in January, those committee members will decide who gets to fill in for Lance in Trenton until the June primary and special election in November.
Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow (R-Flemington), who has also expressed interest in the seat, has a slight geographical edge. Hunterdon County has a larger population than Doherty’s native Warren County, and has about 40 more county committee members.
That’s why Doherty has begun by focusing on Hunterdon County Committee members.
“I initially focused on some Hunterdon county folks, but I’ll hit folks in the two counties,” he said.
Karrow could not be reached for comment. Several Republican sources said today that she’s having second thoughts about running, given Doherty’s strong support by conservative groups.
Warren County Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt said that Doherty can count on nearly unanimous support from the Warren County committee members. Even if Hunterdon County does field a candidate, he said, Doherty will be able to sap enough votes from their members to win.
“I’d like to think he can count on a unified group,” said Steinhardt.
Hunterdon County Republican Chairman Henry Kuhl was out of the country on business and unavailable for comment.
Even if Doherty doesn’t win enough county committee votes to be immediately sent to the Senate, he’s already planning for a primary fight in June.
If Doherty does win the race to succeed Lance, the district may see a different kind of representation in the State Senate.
Lance, a moderate, was forced from his post as Senate Minority Leader partly because he wasn’t partisan enough. Although he touts his fiscal conservatism, he prides himself on his environmental credentials, and has been recognized by advocacy groups as having the strongest environmental record in the state.