2018 Frelinghuysen’s Parallel to Ferguson’s 2008

Today’s breaking news about U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) bowing out in the face of a challenge by Democrat Mikie Sherrill brings to mind late 2007, when then-Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-22) prepared again to run against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-7).

Infused with anti-Bush sentiment, Stender had come within 1.5% or 3,000 votes of beating Ferguson in 2006, and was revving up to go again in 2008. In a presidential election year, Democrats anticipated a Stender win in a rematch and a House seat pickup, but Ferguson in November of 2007 announced his decision not to pursue reelection.

No problem, Stender allies said, doubling down in the new year.

But Ferguson’s bow-out opened a pathway for then-Senate Republican Leader Leonard Lance to pursue the seat.

After weathering a bloody primary, which included the daughter of former Governor Christie Todd Whitman and Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks, Lance defeated Stender 51-41%.

“The Frelinghuysen thing is smart,” an operative told InsiderNJ today on the heels of Frelinghuysen’s announcement. “It’s like a Linda Stender 08 type situation. The incumbent Mike Ferguson was gonna lose, so he retires and then Lance wins.”

But as of this afternoon, the GOP had not yet found a candidate as substantial as Lance to hold back Sherrill.

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