Steve Lonegan’s press conference arguably signaled the formal start to the primary fight for the right to challenge Josh Gottheimer, Save Jerseyans.
Democrats think Gottheimer is sitting pretty, but the potential field boasts some strong potential candidates for federal office.
Here’s where we stand:
Likely to Run:
Former Cresskill Councilman John McCann
McCann is already making the rounds and looks to be, the for lack of a better term, an “establishment” favorite to run against Gottheimer. McCann is no stranger to politics having run the only competitive election ever in the gauntlet of District 37 helping propel Republicans to what remains their last electoral victory in Fort Lee. After Garrett’s defeat stemming in no small part to his disastrous performance in the Bergen County (75%) portion of the district, don’t be surprised if many GOP leaders and primary voters, too, to lean towards a Bergen County candidate for the race.
Warren County Freeholder Jason Sarnoski
While also unannounced, Sarnoski has taken even more logistical steps than McCann toward running. He actually made the step of moving into the district (though only a town over) and has a fundraiser coming up in the middle of the month. Sarnoski should have the support of his home county and will look to gather up Sussex support as well. His best opportunity to win the primary would be a repeat of 2002 when several Bergen candidates slugged it out, allowing him to win on the strength of the deep red northwest counties.
Still Exploring a Run:
Assemblyman Bob Auth
Assemblyman Auth remains a popular figure in District 39 which constitutes a not insignificant portion of CD5 and is on cruise control for re-election this fall. He has been seen making the rounds out in Sussex County which is stoking speculation that he may pursue the seat. Not to mention the Bergen favorite, McCann, flirted with a run against his top of ticket Senator Cardinale this spring. Auth’s path is complicated by still pursuing re-election this November meaning a bid would be a late start, but Auth is a fercious campaigner and ambitious so don’t count it out.
Assemblyman Kevin Rooney
Assemblyman Rooney has had a roller coaster year and a half. In November 2016, Rooney announced he was challenging BCRO Chairman Bob Yudin, only to turn and back Yudin a few months later. Rooney looked dead in the water after Yudin’s defeat, but just a few short months later, he defeated Wayne Republican Chair Mike Marotta by a whisker to win a seat in the Assembly. In June 2017, Rooney and his running mates trounced the BCRO and PCRO endorsed slates in the primary which, in red LD40, is tantamount to election. Rooney has been said to be eyeing the seat but, like Auth, his path is complicated by the understandable distraction of pursuing re-election to the legislature this fall.
Former Freeholder Maura DeNicola
DeNicola, the likeable former Mayor of Franklin Lakes and two-term Republican Freeholder in Bergen County entered the LD40 convention won by Rooney just a few short weeks after her re-election bid ended. There have been whispers she may enter the CD5 primary, but DeNicola seems more likely to pursue a run for County Executive against Jim “The Pension Pig” Tedesco next fall.
Unlikely to Run:
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi
No sooner did Josh Gottheimer defeat Scott Garrett did most of the party immediately begin thinking that Assemblywoman Schepisi was the strongest candidate to take on Gottheimer. A crusader against high-density housing mandates and an advocate for school funding, Schepisi seems more likely to remain in the legislator at this time, despite meeting with national party leadership about a run. If Republicans do not capture the seat this cycle, expect Schepisi to be on the top of list of recruits for 2020 and/or 2022.
Businessman Chuck Shotmeyer
Perhaps no one stoked the imaginations of Republicans more than Chuck Shotmeyer, the BCRO Finance Chair and universally liked businessman. Republicans were eager to capitalize on Shotmeyer’s ability to fund raise both personally and through his connections in addition to his likeability and businessman background. However, Shotmeyer announced a few months back he was not running and has taken no steps to indicate he has changed his mind.