One day after losing the Monmouth GOP endorsement, Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre dropped his campaign for Congress and cleared the way for Scott Sipprelle to focus his resources on the Democratic incumbent, Rush Holt (D-Hopewell). This was a smart political move for Halfacre, who won points among party leaders by quickly uniting the party behind Sipprelle, who has emerged as the front runner after convention wins in Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties. By sparing the party a rancorous primary, Halfacre has substantially enhanced his own chances of moving up the ladder someday.
In the neighboring sixth district, newspaper publisher Diane Gooch is the strong favorite to win the GOP congressional nomination to take on eleven-term incumbent Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch). Gooch has easily won intra-party contests in Monmouth, Middlesex and Somerset counties, and she’ll have a substantial war chest against Pallone, a strong vote getter in a district Republican Gov. Christopher Christie won by five percentage points last November. In a vote of the Monmouth GOP screening committee, Gooch beat Highlands Mayor Anna Little, a former Monmouth County Freeholder, by a massive 64%-23% margin. Despite a poor showing, Little says she will remain in the race. Some pundits think that a primary loss will hurt her chances for a higher-office comeback (she got pushed off the Freeholder Board two years ago by party leaders) and that fighting the organization this year will impede her ability to be considered for something – anything – down the road.
Christie has a special interest in the race to unseat Pallone, who beat him up on deferred prosecution agreements during the gubernatorial campaign and chaired Jon Corzine’s campaign. Part of Gooch’s assignment is to force Pallone to spend through some of his $4.2 million war chest — something that will hurt the congressman’s chances to win the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination if a seat opens up soon. If Little forces Gooch to divert some of her resources away from Pallone, she might make some enemies not worth having.