Now that the gubernatorial election is over, Republicans in Burlington, Ocean and Camden Counties are starting to focus on recruiting someone to take on freshman U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) next year.
There is a deep bench of potential candidates, but some Republicans have one in mind who could clear the field: Philadelphia Eagles legend Jon Runyan, a Mount Laurel resident.
Sources tell PolitickerNJ.com that Assemblywoman Dawn Addiego (R-Evesham) - who knows Runyan because their children attend school together - has talked to him about running. Runyan, who is not currently active in the NFL but has not retired, has not ruled out a run. It is unclear, however, how serious the prospect is.
Reached for comment by PolitickerNJ.com, Addiego said "I don't think I'm at liberty to discuss that right now."
The leading contender of the more conventional candidates to take on Adler is state Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey Twp.). A little further down the shortlist is Assemblyman Scott Rudder (R-Medford), Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor), Toms River Councilman Maurice "Mo" Hill and former Assemblywoman Virginia "Ginny" Haines. One source said Lumberton Committeeman Patrick Delany has expressed interest.
Justin Murphy, the GOP primary candidate from last year, remains interested in running; and John Culbertson, a wealthy investor from Moorestown who told PolitickerNJ.com in May that he would not run, is said to be reconsidering (he could not be reached for comment today).
Republicans thought that state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park), who consistently wins reelection in a legislative district with a two-to-one Democratic registration advantage, had the best shot at defeating Adler. But Allen, who was already said to be leaning against running, announced yesterday that she has cancer - a development that almost certainly takes her out of the running.
Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton and his Ocean County counterpart, George Gilmore, who together lead Republicans in the congressional district's two major counties (Camden County has only Cherry Hill - Adler's home town - in the district), agree that they will do their best to avoid a primary.
Last year, an intense, nasty and expensive three-way Republican primary between Medford Councilman Chris Myers, Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly and former Tabernacle Township Committeeman Justin Murphy helped pave the way for a general election victory by Adler, who was spared a primary challenge.
Layton denied speculation that Gilmore won the right to pick a candidate by producing a 70,000 vote plurality for Christie in November, and Gilmore did not try to claim the right.
"We'll obviously try to pick a candidate who has support in three counties," said Gilmore. "We can't go through another primary fight. I don't think anybody's going to dictate to anybody else who the best candidate is going to be."
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