- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Democrats’ gubernatorial victory in New Jersey last week gave Republicans what some say they wanted most — another open Senate seat that could help the party maintain its majority hold on the chamber in the elections next year.

Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine’s election means he will have to give up his Senate seat before he is sworn in as governor in January. He then will appoint someone to fill the remaining year of his six-year term until the elections next November.

“As much as we wanted to win the governorship, part of us were hoping Corzine would win so the Senate seat would open up, because we have a good shot at getting it,” an unidentified Republican Party campaign official said.

Some polls show the Republicans’ likely Senate nominee, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., is leading two possible Democratic candidates in hypothetical matchups. The state has not elected a Republican senator since Clifford Case, who retired in 1979.

Mr. Kean, son of former governor Thomas H. Kean, already has begun raising money for his campaign, and Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is scheduled speak at a Kean fundraiser in the state next month.

“He’s the only announced candidate. We want to make an early statement that New Jersey is an extremely important Senate race,” said Brian Nick, the NRSC’s spokesman.

“We’ve seen the press saying things about a negative environment for Republicans in terms of the political landscape, but New Jersey is a symbol of how Republicans are on the offense in the ‘blue’ states.”

Several Democratic members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation have been mentioned as possible Senate candidates. Two of them, Reps. Robert E. Andrews and Robert Menendez, have said they will run, even if they are not appointed to fill the seat.

A voter survey conducted last month for the Wall Street Journal by election pollster John Zogby showed Mr. Kean leading Mr. Andrews, 46 percent to 36 percent, and Mr. Menendez, 43 percent to 34 percent. A third Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., is also looking at the race.

All three Democrats are said to be among the names on Mr. Corzine’s short list to replace him in the Senate.

Mr. Zogby’s poll also showed Mr. Kean closely trailing acting Gov. Richard Codey, 45 percent to 41 percent, but Mr. Codey has said he has no plans to run for the Senate.

Republicans say they will be helped next year by what promises to be a crowded and divisive Democratic primary.

“Although the Garden State has not been very hospitable to Republican nominees for federal office, a fractured Democratic Party and a strong GOP nominee could make the Senate race worth watching,” said elections analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

Republicans have opportunities to pick up two other open Democratic seats, in Minnesota and Maryland, where Republicans’ chances appear to have improved lately.

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