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New Jersey: Ferguson’s Surprise News Leaves GOP Scrambling

The surprise announcement by Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) last week that he would not seek re-election in 2008 has set off a scramble on the Republican side that was somewhat stunted by the Thanksgiving holiday.

By midweek, GOP state Sens. Leonard Lance and Kip Bateman were said to be considering the race along with state Assemblyman Peter Biondi and Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks. Somerset County Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli, Hunterdon County Freeholder Will Mennen, Bridgewater Mayor Patty Flannery and even former Rep. Bob Franks were other names that Republicans were floating for the race.

Another interesting name was Bedminster Councilman Finn Caspersen Jr. (R), who is the heir to the Beneficial Management fortune and has had political aspirations in the past.

By Wednesday, the only announced candidate in the race was former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Chris Venis (R), who, according to the site, is a former lobbyist who worked for Franks.

As Republicans continue to sort out their side of the contest, the assumed Democratic nominee, state Assemblywoman Linda Stender, got more good news when, following Ferguson’s retirement announcement, she picked up the endorsement of pro-abortion-rights group EMILY’s List. Stender, who kept pace with Ferguson’s fundraising in the third quarter, likely will now receive heavy financial support from the group’s large donor base.

— John McArdle

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