‚??You have to factor in Geraldo Rivera as a Republican candidate,‚?Ě New Jersey‚??s former Republican National Committeeman David Norcross told Human Events Friday, a few hours after Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D.-NJ) announced he would not seek re-election next year, ‚??He is a Republican, lives in New Jersey [Edgewater], and he‚??s talking about it on his radio show.‚?Ě
Geraldo Rivera?! A Republican candidacy by the five-times married ‚??Peck‚??s Bad Boy‚?Ě of TV news who has spurred controversy for everything from promising to spit on fellow Fox News commentator Michele Malkin for her views on immigration to claiming in 2003 to have been in ‚??friendly fire‚?Ě in Afghanistan when he was actually 300 miles away?
Amid the rumors, a just-completed Monmouth University poll shows that among New Jersey Republicans, 48 per cent have a negative opinion of Rivera and 44 per cent a positive one.
Had it not been for former state party chairman and 1976 U.S. Senate nominee Norcross‚?? lengthy Republican resume, this reporter would have thought he was joshing. But he wasn‚??t. In recent weeks, Rivera has hinted on his syndicated daily radio program he wants to run for the Senate as a Republican. With the 89-year-old senator‚??s decision to step down in ‚??14 and Newark Mayor Cory Booker the likely Democratic nominee, Rivera now says he will make a decision on a race before 2014.
‚??Fasten your seat belts,‚?Ě he told his radio listeners.
Few in Washington DC actually believe that, given Rivera‚??s age (he turns 70 on July 4) and his estimated $1 million-plus income from broadcasting, he will actually become a candidate for the open Senate seat from the Garden State. But just the fact that Geraldo Rivera is seriously discussed as a Republican Senate candidate illustrates the plight of the GOP in New Jersey: although they have elected three governors over the past four decades, Republicans in New Jersey have not won a U.S. Senate race since 1972.
So many of the familiar figures one would think of as probably Republican contenders for an open Senate seat are, in all likelihood, not going to make the race. None of the state‚??s five GOP U.S. Representatives are considering the race, nor is State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who lost to Democrat Robert Menendez for New Jersey‚??s other Senate seat. Another likely ‚??no-go‚?Ě is State Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr., namesake son of a former governor.
One Republican name that is beginning to draw mention as a Senate prospect is that of Kim Guadagno, who four years ago was elected New Jersey‚??s first-ever lieutenant governor after the office was created. A mother of three and former assistant U.S. attorney in Newark, Guadagno (pronounced ‚??Gwah-DAG-No‚?Ě) became sheriff of Monmouth County in 2007 and is expected to be re-elected as Republican Gov. Chris Christie‚??s running mate this fall.
If there is any major problem with Guadagno as a Senate candidate, it is probably her break from the conservative line with her pro-abortion position (Christie is pro-life).
On the Democratic side, Reps. Frank Pallone and Bob Andrews are mentioned as candidates but both are considered unlikely to make the race. But Booker, who chaired the platform committee at the Democratic National Convention last summer, may not be a warm choice for the Senate among Democrats in his state. During the ‚??12 campaign, he praised Republican nominee Mitt Romney‚??s background in business. In addition, Lautenberg made it clear he considered the Newark mayor an ‚??ingrate‚?Ě for planning to run before the veteran senator said what his plans were in ‚??14. Sources in New Jersey doubt he could secure the nomination without opposition.
Whether Republicans can take advantage of such a situation remains to be seen.