Assemblyman Michael Doherty, who says he would “rather die” than skip a State Senate primary against incumbent Marcia Karrow, but now it looks like keeping his Assembly seat is no longer an option. Since losing the special election convention for Leonard Lance’s Senate seat last month, Doherty has seen some of his top supporters abandon him. Warren County Freeholder John DiMaio, who has been a top Doherty supporter and longtime friend, will run for Assembly with Karrow on the Hunterdon organization line in the June primary. Another Doherty backer, Warren County GOP Chairman Douglas Steinhardt, is expected to flip his support and endorse Karrow – possibly as early as today.
DiMaio is one of three candidates competing in a special election convention this month for Karrow’s Assembly seat, along with Hunterdon County Freeholders Matthew Holt and Erik Peterson. With the support of Steinhardt and Hunterdon County GOP Chairman Henry Kuhl, and with the backing of Warren Republican mayors who had supported Karrow over Doherty, DiMaio is the clear front runner.
If DiMaio loses the special election convention, he will still have a spot on the ticket in June as the organization candidate for Doherty’s Assembly seat. If he wins, Holt and Peterson will duke it out for the other seat. Holt has a tough decision to make: if he is not the incumbent, he’ll need to give up his Freeholder seat in order to run for the Assembly.
Should DiMaio win an Assembly seat this month, members of the Warren Republican County Committee will need to hold another special election convention to fill DiMaio’s Freeholder seat. That means two Freeholder seats — a majority of the three-member Board — will be at stake in November. It also means that a suddenly spirited Republican primary could put incumbent Freeholder Everett Chamberlain in some danger.
Doherty has a third option if he comes to the realization that he can’t win a Senate race and he can’t keep his Assembly seat: he could run for Freeholder, a post he held from 2001 to 2003.