New Jersey's 7th congressional district election, 2008
Congressman Leonard Lance defeated state Assembly Woman Linda Stender in a long fought race for the highly competitive seat. Leonard Lance announced his plans to continue to "fight for the republican party I have come to know" and stating that he has suggested an update to the Republican Party.
The district was considered to lean Republican, but the 2008 election was expected to be highly competitive, considering the closeness of the 2006 election when Ferguson, the incumbent Republican, narrowly defeated Stender, the Democratic challenger. Ultimately, Lance received 50.8% of the vote and was elected to serve in Congress.
Seven candidates appeared on the Republican primary ballot:
- A.D. Amar of Warren, New Jersey, Seton Hall University Business Professor
- Kelly Hatfield, former Summit Council President
- Leonard Lance, State Senator and former Minority Leader
- Martin L. Marks, Mayor of Scotch Plains
- Thomas Roughneen of Watchung
- Kate Whitman of Peapack-Gladstone, daughter of former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman
- Darren Young of Summit
Three other candidates who had sought support in Republican conventions in the district, but failed to win any organizational support, declined to file petitions to run in the Republican primary: Warren Mayor Victor Sordillo, Bridgewater Councilman Michael Hsing, and former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Chris Venis. Hsing, however, later filed to run in the general election as an independent.
During the convention process, Lance won the "organization line" in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, which together account for about 70 percent of the Republican primary voters in the district. Hatfield won the line in Union County and Whitman won in Middlesex County. The portion of the district in Middlesex has by far the fewest number of registered Republican voters of any of the four counties in the district.
- Tom Abrams of Raritan, New Jersey, a marketing executive and peace activist, running under the "Prosperity Not War" slogan
- Dean Greco of Flemington, New Jersey, a middle school teacher, running under the "All-Day Breakfast Party" slogan
- Michael Hsing of Bridgewater, New Jersey, Bridgewater Township Councilman and a technology executive
As of July, Stender had a huge lead over Lance in terms of both funds raised and cash on hand. In fact, Lance was trailing independent Michael Hsing in terms of cash on hand. In spite of Stender's financial advantage, Lance still polled fairly evenly with her throughout the race.
In mid-September a poll showed Stender leading Lance 36 to 33 percent with Hsing at 9 percent. There was some speculation that Hsing, a Republican councilman in Bridgewater, might act as a spoiler by taking Republican votes away from Lance. The Democratic Party directly tried to take advantage of Hsing's conservatism by sending out direct mail attacking Lance's conservative credentials in order to divert Republican voters to Hsing. However, an internal poll conducted by Stender's campaign in late October showed that Lance was leading in the race by four points. On October 31, The Pindell Report changed its rating of the race from "Leans Democratic" to "Leans Republican."
Lance and Stender debated each other twice during the campaign. In September, they met in Scotch Plains for a debate hosted at the Jewish Community Campus of Central New Jersey. It was moderated by Westfield rabbi Douglas Segal. The candidates met in October in Edison for a second debate, which was televised on News 12 New Jersey and moderated by Walt Kane.
On October 21, The Newark Star-Ledger editorial board endorsed Lance in the 2008 election. On October 25, The New York Times followed suit. Eight other newspapers also endorsed Lance over Stender. Stender's bid was not endorsed by a single newspaper during the campaign.
Both major-party candidates have campaigned with prominent politicians of their party in the months before the election. Lance campaigned with then-U.S. President George W. Bush and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Stender campaigned with former U.S. president Bill Clinton and U.S. House of Representatives majority leader Steny Hoyer.
Major party candidates
Unsuccessful primary candidates
- Chebium, Raju. "Ferguson won't seek reelection to Congress" Archived 2008-02-29 at Archive.is, Home News Tribune, November 19, 2007. Accessed November 19, 2007. "Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-Warren Township, said today he won’t seek reelection next year to a fifth term.... he next elections are in November 2008; Stender is again a Democratic candidate for the 7th district seat Ferguson currently occupies."
- Tough senate race for Dems counterbalanced by cakewalk congressional primaries, PolitickerNJ
- Lance's lines vs. Whitman's cash, PolitickerNJ
- Lance Scores an important victory in Somerset, PolitickerNJ