Geist set to run for Matheussen's Senate seat The assemblyman will be up against Frederick H. Madden, former acting chief of the N.J. state police.

Posted: April 01, 2003

George F. Geist has launched a high-stakes bid for the Senate seat being vacated by State Sen. John J. Matheussen.

The popular and well-known Republican assemblyman announced yesterday that he would face Democrat Frederick H. Madden, a political neophyte who jumped into the Senate race in February after resigning as acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

Geist's candidacy ends weeks of speculation about who will run in place of Matheussen.

Matheussen decided in February to relinquish the Senate seat he has held since 1992 after Gov. McGreevey appointed him to head the Delaware River Port Authority - a job he intends to start today.

Geist, 47, who calls himself "Mr. Everywhere," a reference to his visibility, has won every Assembly race as a Republican in the Democratic-leaning Fourth District since 1991. The district covers parts of Camden and Gloucester Counties and is one of only a handful of districts being targeted by both Republicans and Democrats in a year when control of the evenly divided Senate is at stake.

"I am ready. I am willing. And I am able to be the new senator for a better New Jersey," Geist said.

While Geist has name recognition and a tangible record in the district, Madden is expected to raise $2 million and outspend Geist significantly.

"We are going to have formidable resources," said Rich McGrath, spokesman for the Democratic State Committee.

Geist said he was undaunted.

"I'm not a big-money guy," Geist said. "I will continue to do it the old-fashioned way and they will continue to do it the expensive way, and I will continue to be successful based upon my values."

Madden, 48, is a career trooper and longtime Washington Township resident with strong ties to union members - a constituency that has stood by Geist in previous elections. "Madden has already made significant inroads with unions and that's one of the things Assemblyman Geist really needs to survive," McGrath said. "We're chipping away at his political foundation."

Geist said that he was confident of support from certain unions but that he knew this race would not be easy. In the 2001 election, Geist, a Gloucester Township resident, was the Assembly candidate in the Fourth District with the most votes - 26,825, compared with 24,845 votes won by Democratic Assemblyman Robert J. Smith.

"George is a proven vote-getter," said Robert Becker, chairman of the Gloucester County Republican Committee. "He is a tireless worker. He'll probably be pushing us more than we'll be pushing him."

If all goes as Republicans plan, Geist will be running as an incumbent. Matheussen is expected to formally resign his seat sometime in May when the Senate is back in session. Once he steps down, Republicans will hold a special convention to appoint Matheussen's successor. Becker has said Geist was their first choice to fill the vacancy.

Geist said he would announce his Assembly running mates on Thursday.

Contact staff writer Wendy Ruderman at 856-779-3926 or wruderman@phillynews.com.

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