2 Republicans pass on Senate race against Booker

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick has chosen to keep his minority leadership position.
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick has chosen to keep his minority leadership position.
Posted: January 19, 2014

Two Republican New Jersey legislators said Friday that they would not run for the U.S. Senate, leaving unclear who might challenge Democratic Sen. Cory Booker this year.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R., Union) said he "looked seriously" at running but did not want to leave his leadership post in the Legislature.

"I just did not think I could continue to be the Republican leader and run for Senate," Bramnick said. "I had to choose between those two."

Bramnick, a moderate, was widely considered among Republicans as their best chance to unseat Booker, who took office in November after defeating tea-party favorite Steve Lonegan in a special election to finish the term of the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg.

Another Republican who entertained a possible run, conservative State Sen. Michael Doherty of Warren County, also said Friday that he would remain in Trenton. Doherty said he finalized his decision after being appointed to the Senate's special committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal.

It was unclear who else might run against Booker. Candidates must file a petition with the state by March 31 to appear on the June primary ballot.

Booker's campaign announced Friday that it had raised $1.2 million in the last quarter and $13 million all of last year. Booker, who gained celebrity as the mayor of Newark, spent much of that money during the special-election campaign; he has $1.8 million cash on hand, his campaign said.

Booker earlier had set up an exploratory committee in early 2013 to run for the Senate in 2014, but his plans were expedited after Lautenberg died in June.

New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the Senate in more than 40 years. While the special election in the fall was closer than expected, Booker still won by 11 percentage points on a Wednesday in October and now enjoys the advantage of incumbency.

Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the Garden State by 700,000, though a plurality of voters are unaffiliated.


aseidman@phillynews.com856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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