Open NJ House Seats Attract Competition


Four state lawmakers, two former mayors who moved from more than an hour away, and a former pro football player are running for Congress in New Jersey in an election guaranteed to produce more turnover than usual.

Congressional candidates in New Jersey faced a 4 p.m. deadline Monday to turn in their nominating petitions for the June 3 primary. State elections officials were still going through petitions early Monday night, and a final list of candidates was expected to made public later in the evening.

The hotspots for primaries were in the three districts where there will be open seats in the fall after one congressman resigned earlier this year and two others have announced they are not seeking re-election. The turnover means there’s a better chance than usual for a change in the balance of the state’s delegation, currently six Democrats and six Republicans.

In central New Jersey’s 12th District, where Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat, is stepping down at the end of his term, three Democratic lawmakers were among those in the race. State Sen. Linda Greenstein, of Middlesex County, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, of Mercer County, and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, of Somerset County, filed petitions to run. Andrew Zwicker, a physicist at Princeton University from Kingston, also filed to run.

The district, which covers parts of Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties, could have a competitive race with each of the lawmakers battling for his or her own home area.

Franklin Township physician Alieta Eck, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate last year, was the lone GOP candidate to file.

In the 3rd District, which stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the New Jersey shore, Rep. Jon Runyan’s departure after two terms has attracted a crowded field.

Tom MacArthur, a former mayor of Randolph, filed papers with the support of the Republican organizations in both Burlington and Ocean Counties. Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, has entered the race. Lonegan, who has run for governor and last year ran for the U.S. Senate, has a statewide organization already in place.

Both those candidates could face accusations of being carpetbaggers if Mo Hill, a councilman from Toms River, joins the race, as expected.

National Democrats are targeting the district as one they can pick up, and the party organizations have fallen in line in support of Aimee Belgard. But she, too, faces primary competition from Howard Kleinhendler and Bruce Todd.

There are four Republicans seeking the nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat who was elected in a special election last year.

Businessmen Brian D. Goldberg and Richard Pezzullo, college professor Murray Sabrin, and Jeff Bell — a conservative policy analyst who won the Republican nomination in 1978 and lost to Sen. Bill Bradley — are all seeking the Republican nomination.

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