If Shelley Adler, a 52-year-old lawyer and former Cherry Hill Township councilwoman, wins the Democratic nomination, she'll most likely face Jon Runyan, the Republican who unseated her husband two years ago.
Shelley Adler said she wanted to focus on some of the same causes that her husband worked on.
"My pledge is to fight for middle-class tax cuts and to protect Social Security and Medicare," she said in a statement. "Politicians in Washington need to end the practice of giving tax breaks to billionaires and big corporations and creating billions of dollars in subsidies for big oil at the expense of middle-class families and seniors."
Runyan's defeat of John Adler marked the first time in decades that Adler was out of elected office after a political career in which he worked his way up from the town council to Congress, winning office in a southern New Jersey congressional district that had previously been under Republican control. His election to Congress came in 2008, when longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton was retiring and a popular Democrat, Barack Obama, was at the top of the ticket.
By 2010, conditions were different, as Republicans took control of the House, and John Adler could not hold off Runyan, a political novice but a well-known figure as a former Philadelphia Eagles lineman whose fiscally conservative positions endeared him to tea party groups.
John Adler died last year after tissue around his heart became infected.
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Runyan said he welcomed Shelley Adler's interest in joining the race.
"If she is ultimately the Democratic nominee, I look forward to a spirited campaign on the issues that matter to the residents of Burlington and Ocean counties," Runyan said.
Shelley Adler, a mother of four sons, might face an even tougher contest because the district boundaries have been redrawn, leaving her Cherry Hill home in another district. The bow tie-shaped district, which stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the shore, dropped that Democratic stronghold.
Members of Congress are required to live in the state they represent - but not in their specific districts.
Joseph Andl, chairman of the Burlington County Democratic Party, said he has not heard from any other Democrats who plan to seek the nomination. He called Shelley Adler "very talented."
"I would think it's going to be another highly competitive race," Andl said, "just like her husband John ran against Jon Runyan."