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Blog Home Page --> House -- New Jersey -- 07

NJ 03, 07: Dems Lead

Two Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll show Garden State voters haven't started breaking hard yet.

A Grove Insight poll conducted 10/2-3 surveyed 400 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Democratic State Senator John Adler and ex-Medford Mayor Chris Myers were tested.

General Election Matchup


A Benenson Strategy Group poll conducted 10/8-9 surveyed 406 likely voters in the Seventh District for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender and GOP state Senator Leonard Lance were tested.

General Election Matchup

When undecided voters start dropping below 20%, polls will show which way the late-breakers go, a crucial indicator in New Jersey elections.

NJ 07: Stender (D) +3

After she came just three thousand votes away from winning in 2006, New Jersey Assemblywoman Linda Stender is one of Democrats' top challengers this year. A new poll conducted for her campaign shows Stender is ahead, but fickle New Jersey voters are far from making up their minds.

The poll, conducted for Stender by Anzalone Liszt Research, surveyed 500 likely voters between 8/20-25 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Stender, state Senator Leonard Lance and independent candidates Michael Hsing and Tom Abrams were tested.

General Election Matchup


Generic Dem.......40
Generic GOPer.....40

McCain............45 (-3 from last, 4/08)
Obama.............43 (+3)

The overall poll results look like better news for Republicans than for Democrats. Yes, Stender's ahead, but many had assumed Stender was almost a shoo-in to steal retiring Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson's seat. Lance, who came through a competitive primary, actually led Stender's first benchmark poll by five points, according to the memo accompanying the poll results. That the Republican is trailing by just three points with so many voters remaining undecided is better news than many Republicans expected.

Barack Obama and John McCain are unlikely to be significant factors for or against either candidate, given the tightness of the presidential race in the district. President Bush won the district by six points in 2004 after winning it by just a single point in 2000.

But Hsing, the former Republican and local township councilman now running as a third-party candidate, could dramatically aid Stender's bid, the pollsters note. Hsing will not have the resources to seriously compete, but he is already pulling nine points, most of it from voters who would otherwise back Lance.

In NJ, Geography Matters

Despite polls showing a large portion of New Jersey voters concerned with Senator Frank Lautenberg's age, the 84-year old Democrat defeated Rep. Rob Andrews by a larger than expected margin, taking 59% to Andrews' 35% in the Garden State primary last night. Donald Cresitello, the mayor of Morristown, finished a distant third with 6%.

Andrews, who only jumped in the race in early April, ran advertisements in the state's two hugely expensive media markets, Philadelphia and New York City, pointing out that Lautenberg would be 91 years old after finishing out his fourth term (Actually an error on Andrews' part; Lautenberg won't turn 91 until about three weeks after his term expires).

But age mattered less than geography in New Jersey last night. Lautenberg ran up big totals in the state's northern counties, including a more than four-to-one victory in Bergen County and similar margins in Middlesex, Essex and Hudson Counties, all heavily Democratic areas in the northeast part of the state. Andrews managed impressive wins in his home base in Camden and Gloucester Counties, which he represents in Congress, but the level of Lautenberg's wins up north carried the day.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Dick Zimmer beat two other Republicans with 46% of the vote, a margin narrower than his state party would have liked. Zimmer joined the race late, after several other promising contenders dropped out. He beat conservative State Senator Joe Pennacchio, who clocked 40%, and college professor Murray Sabrin, for whom Ron Paul campaigned earlier this year, who took 14%.

Zimmer lost a bid for this same Senate seat twelve years ago, when Democrat Robert Torricelli beat him by ten points. This year Zimmer will remain the underdog, but should more general election voters see Lautenberg's age as a negative than the Democratic electorate did, Republicans may have yet another reason to hope for a good result in the state. Those hopes, though, have been dashed repeatedly in recent years.

Like New Mexico, New Jersey also has three open seats this year, but with a giant asterisk. Andrews, who vacated his First District to run for Senate, could very well end up back in the House next year. That's because Andrews' wife, Camille, won the primary to replace her husband, though she is largely seen as a placeholder candidate who will be substituted out for the incumbent before November.

East of Andrews' Camden-based district, Republican Rep. Jim Saxton is retiring after twelve terms in Congress. The Third District stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, and Democrats think they have a good case for winning a seat that voted for Al Gore by eleven points but that favored President Bush by 8,000 votes out of more than 220,000 cast in 2004.

Democrats cleared the field for State Senator John Adler, who in 1990 lost to Saxton by a wide margin. This year, though, Adler is seen as one of the party's top recruits, and he had already raised a jaw-dropping $1.4 million through the May 14 pre-primary filing deadline. Adler maintains $1.1 million on hand.

In November, he will face Medford Township Councilman Chris Myers, the Republican anointed by Saxton as his successor. A Gulf War veteran and former Lockheed Martin vice president, Myers took 49% of the vote, compared with 26% for Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly and 25% for former Tabernacle Township committeeman Justin Murphy. Republicans are happy with Myers because of his defense background in a district that has several military bases and relies heavily on the defense industry (Saxton retires as the second-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee).

The state's other open seat presents another Democratic target, though it may be a steeper hill for the party to climb. In 2006, state Assemblywoman Linda Stender came a surprisingly close 3,000 votes away from beating Republican Michael Ferguson in the Seventh District, which snakes from the Pennsylvania border to the Newark suburbs. The district gave President Bush a six-point win in 2004 and a one-point victory in 2000, but national Democrats have made Stender's second attempt at the seat a top priority.

Replacing Ferguson, whose retirement was not completely expected, on the GOP ballot will be State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance. Lance scored 40% of the vote last night, doubling the total for his next-closest competitor, businesswoman Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Governor Christie Todd Whitman. Lance has some financial catching up to do, after raising $382,000 before the primary and spending all but $191,000 through the May 14 pre-primary window. Stender has a huge cash advantage, with $913,000 in the bank.

Despite both Republican nominees' financial shortfall, the National Republican Congressional Committee maintains that both will have good chances in November given the state of the Democratic Party in New Jersey. "Republicans nominated two incredibly strong candidates on primary night while Democrats have cast their lot in with two machine politicians who have contributed heavily to the dysfunction in Trenton and served as enablers for the vastly unpopular Democratic Governor Jon Corzine," NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said. The DCCC did not return a request for comment by press time.

Two Big Recruits For GOP

It's a rare day when Republicans get good news. Today, though, they scored big, as campaign committees on both sides of the Hill recruited strong candidates for next year.

In Louisiana, state Treasurer John Kennedy announced he will challenge incumbent Mary Landrieu for her Senate seat next year and released an initial benchmark poll showing him well ahead. Kennedy, a former Democrat, had been heavily wooed by NRSC chief John Ensign and former White House political guru Karl Rove, and with the results of the poll, it's no wonder he got in.

Conducted early last month, from 10/10-14, the survey contacted 1001 Louisianans for a margin of error of +/- 3.2 points. Zogby International made the calls on behalf of Kennedy's campaign.

General Election Matchup
Kennedy 45
Landrieu 38

Landrieu was forced into a run-off during her initial re-election bid five years ago, and many believe that Hurricane Katrina, which chased hundreds of thousands of residents from the state, dramatically reduced New Orleans' African American population. Landrieu's father was the popular mayor of New Orleans, and she has relied on the city as a base from which to launch her successful statewide campaigns. The loss of thousands of black voters hurts Landrieu's re-election chances.

Whether she can overcome a well-financed challenger depends heavily on Landrieu's ability to expand her base beyond traditional Democratic strongholds in the cities. Louisianans vote Democratic for state legislative seats in more rural areas, but those areas have not favored federal Democrats in the same proportion.

Senate Republicans did not win a single Democratic seat in 2006, and 2008 doesn't look much better. Louisiana presents them with a very rare opportunity, and it is likely that the party will do everything in its power to help Kennedy go after Landrieu. The NRSC lags sorely behind its Democratic counterpart in fundraising, but one has to expect a significant investment in Louisiana.

In other good recruiting news for the GOP, when House Republicans unexpectedly lost Rep. Mike Ferguson to retirement this month, the party scrambled to find a suitable replacement, and quickly. Ferguson's 2006 opponent, Assemblywoman Linda Stender, is raising money quickly, and after her closer-than-expected finish last year, Republicans needed to act quickly to find a replacement who could take her on.

The obvious choice: State Senator Tom Kean Jr., who last year lost a bid for Senate but maintained the financial ties and good will among the GOP base to mount a strong bid. In fact, his candidacy would likely have been greeted with front-runner status. Kean, though, was just elected Senate Republican Whip, and as quickly as his name was floated, he announced he wouldn't run. The candidate Kean said he would back also pulled out, leaving the GOP temporarily in the lurch.

Now, the party has recruited State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, whose Senate district covers part of the 7th Congressional. But Lance's path to the nomination isn't clear, and in a state with two prominent Republican dynasties, the other candidate hopes to trade on her family's good name to create a third. Kean's father served as governor before his son got into politics.

The next GOP governor, Christine Todd Whitman, apparently also passed on the political gene. Her daughter, businesswoman Kate Whitman, announced today that she will run against Lance for the right to face Stender in November. The younger Whitman gets a big boost with former RNC finance chief Lew Eisenberg on her finance committee, and though both Lance and Whitman would make good candidates, the GOP is clearly more excited about Whitman.

Kean Not Running

That was quick. Earlier today, we reported that New Jersey Republicans initially pointed to State Sen. Tom Kean as a potential candidate to replace retiring Rep. Mike Ferguson. Late today, Kean sent out a statement thanking Ferguson for his service and saying he would not seek the seat, instead focusing on his new duties as Republican Senate leader.

A knowledgeable Republican strategist says Assembly Republican Whip Jon Bramnick becomes the front-runner with Kean out of the race. Bramnick was said to be considering a Senate bid against incumbent Democrat Frank Lautenberg, but a race for Congress would seem to be more appealing. PolitickerNJ reports on Republican sources saying Kean will support Bramnick as he moves toward a bid.

Linda Stender, the Democrat who lost to Ferguson by just two points in 2006, has a preliminary name identification and fundraising edge on Bramnick, making the race difficult for Republicans. But one interesting wrinkle: The GOP source said a top staffer for Rudy Giuliani promised Republican leaders in New Jersey that, should the former mayor of the neighboring metropolis get the GOP nomination, their state would be targeted in 2008.

Regardless of whether Giuliani can win the state -- and his campaign believes they can -- the influx of staff and advertising dollars would likely carry a trickle-down effect, helping Republicans at all levels and, the party would hope, boosting their nominee to replace Ferguson over Stender. While former Governor Tom Kean Sr. today announced he would back John McCain, Giuliani has at least one prominent backer connected to Bramnick: His New Jersey state chairman is Tom Kean Jr.

Ferguson Out In NJ

Four-term moderate Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson will announce he will not seek re-election, PolitickerNJ reports, opening another seat for Democrats to target and Republicans to lose sleep over. Ferguson, who is just 37 years old, will say he prefers to spend more time with his young children.

Ferguson's 7th District, which spans from the Pennsylvania border nearly to Newark Airport and includes Edison, Woodbridge and Linden, re-elected the congressman by just two points last year over Assemblywoman Linda Stender. This year, Stender is running again and already has about $225,000 cash on hand. Ferguson leaves the House with more than $750,000 in the bank.

As Republicans begin looking for a candidate, their eyes will likely turn to a familiar face: The district is home to State Sen. Tom Kean Jr., whose failed run for Senate in 2006 left him with a rolodex full of deep-pocketed donors he should be able to tap again.

A Kean bid would be the GOP's best hope in keeping a district that gave President Bush just a 3,000-vote margin over Al Gore in 2000, and a wider 6-point edge in 2004. Still, the loss of a seasoned campaigner like Ferguson is another blow to the NRCC, which can't take much more punishment these days.