Lautenberg, Zimmer win N.J. Senate primary

June 3, 2008 8:52:39 PM PDT
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the chamber's third-oldest member, easily won nomination for re-election Tuesday, surpassing a challenger who often reminded voters that Lautenberg would be nearly 91 by the end of a fifth term. With 86 percent of the vote in, Lautenberg had 62 percent, leading Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews, who had 32 percent, and Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, who had 6 percent.

"We're going to put our country back together, right back on the right path," Lautenberg said Tuesday night as he thanked supporters.

Lautenberg will compete this November against former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer, who defeated state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and college professor Murray Sabrin in the Republican primary.

Zimmer led with 47 percent of the vote. Pennacchio was second with 39 percent. Sabrin had 14 percent.

Turnout was low, and the state held its presidential primary in February. That race was won by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain.

In other primary races across the state, Republicans decided two contentious nomination races for open House seats and Atlantic City voters chose a Democratic mayoral candidate.

Andrews, a 50-year-old lawmaker who has served in the House since 1990, recalled in one television ad how Lautenberg himself raised the age issue when campaigning in 1982 against Rep. Millicent Fenwick, who was 72.

But in the end New Jersey's Democratic leaders assembled in Newark to celebrate Lautenberg's win. Rep. Frank Pallone called it a "tremendous victory by Sen. Lautenberg."

"It appears to be almost 2-to-1," Pallone said. "I want to congratulate him tonight."

Rep. Steve Rothman said the primary "was a referendum on Frank Lautenberg" and dubbed the senator "our strongest and most effective member of our delegation."

Andrews said he would support Lautenberg.

"We will be unified," Andrews said. "We will be together."

Lautenberg is the third-oldest senator on Capitol Hill. Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia is 90, and Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska is two months older than Lautenberg.

On the Republican side of New Jersey's Senate race, each of the three candidates tried to position himself as a conservative champion of less government spending, with abortion rights being a key difference. Pennacchio and Sabrin oppose abortion; Zimmer supports abortion rights.

Zimmer, 63, has been out of elected politics for a dozen years after losing the 1996 U.S. Senate race and a 2000 House race. He is currently a Washington lawyer and lobbyist.

In other races, there were contested primaries in seven House districts, including three where the sitting congressmen are not seeking re-election:

- In the 1st District, which includes parts of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, Andrews' wife Camille S. Andrews defeated three foes for the Democratic nomination to replace her husband.

- In the 3rd District, which includes parts of Burlington, Camden and Ocean counties, Republican Chris Myers beat two challengers for the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. James Saxton. Myers will face Democratic state Sen. John Adler.

- In the 7th District, which includes parts of Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties, state Sen. Leonard Lance defeated six other Republicans vying to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson. They included Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Gov. Christie Whitman. Lance will face Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender.

Only two House incumbents faced challenges, but Republican Frank LoBiondo in the 2nd District and Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen in the 11th District were easily nominated for re-election.

In Atlantic City, former mayor Lorenzo Langford claimed victory over incumbent Mayor Scott Evans and former acting mayor Domenic Cappella for the Democratic mayoral nomination. Langford will face Republican John McQueen and independents Joseph Polillo and Willie Norwood in November.


Associated Press writer Angela Delli Santi in Newark contributed to this report.


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