UNION COUNTY — A top Democratic Party power broker announced on the Senate Floor Monday that he believed Republican Leonard Lance was the best candidate for Congress in one of New Jersey’s most hotly contested battleground district.
“I really want you to win,” Sen. Raymond Lesniak said he told Lance before the election.
He made the admission on the Senate floor during discussion about a resolution honoring Lance on his departure from the state Senate. “I didn’t want to lose him in this body (the state senate), but he by far was not only the best candidate, but he’s earned it and he deserves it.”
Wally Edge, an anonymous political commentator on a political news website, said Lesniak’s statement could be a signal that the county political machine will deny Stender support for re-election to the state Assembly in 2009.
A report published by the unknown blogger on Nov. 1, said that a Union County Democrat suggested that if she lost the House race Stender “won’t get a fifth term in the State Assembly.”
“As Democrats see it, Stender has had two shots to move up,” the pre-election report said. “There is a long line of Union County Democrats who are interested in succeeding Stender in the Legislature, and party leaders feel their opportunity to run for the Assembly ought not be eliminated because Stender didn’t run a strong enough House race.”
Stender came within one point of ousting incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson in the 2006 election and Democratic organizations spent a total near $4 million to advance her candidacy.
“It was really a crushing defeat for me,” said Stender, adding that she intends to run for re-election to the Assembly.
“In the end, the way I look at it and explain it is Leonard Lance was moderate on some social issues so there wasn’t enough of a distinction between the two of us,” said Stender. “The undecided voters broke Republican in this Republican district.”
Lesniak, who is described as Union County’s foremost power broker, said his comments regarding Lance, “had nothing to do with Assemblywoman Stender.”
“If she wants to run for re-election she has my support,” said Lesniak.
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