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GOP Primary Victors Try to Mend Fences

In New Jersey, where Republicans are hoping to hang on to two of their most endangered open seats of the cycle, two lively GOP primaries yielded decisive results Tuesday.

In the central New Jersey 7th district, where Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) is stepping down at the end of his term, state Sen. Leonard Lance won a crowded GOP primary handily. With 40 percent of the vote, Lance defeated his closest competitor, political activist Kate Whitman, the daughter of the state’s former governor, by 20 points.

Farther south, in the 3rd district of retiring Rep. Jim Saxton, Lockheed Martin Vice President Chris Myers defeated Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly and businessman Justin Murphy by 23 and 24 points, respectively.

Now the question is whether Lance and Myers can regroup and heal the wounds of their primary battles in time to defeat a pair of highly touted Democratic state legislators who went unchallenged in their own party primaries and who have used their time to pack away resources for the general election campaign.

“Heading into the general election, not only are Myers and Lance faced with defending President Bush’s failed legacy, but they also have a seriously broken Republican base to mend,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Carrie James said on Wednesday.

Both state Sen. John Adler (D), who will face Myers in the 3rd district, and state Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D), who will take on Lance in the 7th, have enjoyed unified support from state and national Democrats since they announced their candidacies, James said. Both were included among the first seven additions to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” fundraising and infrastructure program, an effort that now boasts 25 candidates across the country.

On the Republican side, both Lance and Myers burned through nearly all of their campaign cash during their primaries and will be looking to replenish those coffers during the summer months.

But Republicans contend that the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent during the primary race was not wasted.

Although spending large sums of campaign cash is “a downside to running a primary, there’s also upsides,” Myers campaign manager Chris Russell said Wednesday. “Chris Myers has his name out there.”

But the fact remains that Adler had more than $1.1. million in cash on hand as of mid-May and Stender had more than $900,000 in her war chest. And with New Jersey relying on some of the most expensive media markets in the country, that fundraising advantage (plus the massive cash on hand lead that the DCCC has over the National Republican Congressional Committee) will be even more important this fall.

“Since Republicans have so little money and a depressed Republican base, Democrats are poised to pick up ... at least two seats in Jersey this year,” James said.

As Lance and Myers focus on uniting their local parties for November, they will have the support of both Saxton (who supported Myers early in his campaign) and Ferguson (who stayed on the sidelines during the primary).

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