Leonard Lance can relax. At least a little.
Craig Heard said Monday that he would not contest Lance, R-Dist. 7, in this June’s Republican primary.
Rather than seek to oust Lance, Heard said in a statement that he would devote his time to unifying state Republicans.
“New Jersey has not had a strong united Republican party coalition for quite some time,” said Heard, who is a veteran party fundraiser.
Heard, who ran unsuccessfully against Lance two years ago, sparked speculation he may do so again when he formed an exploratory committee last month to size up his chances. Heard said at the time he thought Lance was not a dependable enough supporter of the Republican agenda.
“Running against Lance in the primary (would have required) significant funds for both the incumbent and myself, where those resources could be better used toward the general election to insure a Republican victory in November,” Heard said Monday. “This, I feel, is more important than my personal ambitions to run for Congress at this time. Although Lance and I may differ on some positions, the priority needs to be keeping control of our Republican House of Representatives. Differences can be negotiated and reconciled later.”
Heard, who lives in Roxbury, said he would continue working with a local study commission exploring whether the township and neighboring Mount Arlington should be consolidated. A cynic might say that challenging home rule in New Jersey is more difficult than challenging an incumbent congressman.
Lance, who is expected to face a well-funded and tough Democratic challenger this fall, has at times deviated from President Trump’s agenda. Most tellingly, Lance opposed the GOP tax cut plan, which passed, and the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which failed.
“I want to thank Craig for his support and for his tireless advocacy on behalf of our taxpayers, veterans, underprivileged children and homeless Americans,” the Congressman said. “I am proud to have his support.”
While Lance would have been expected to prevail in a primary, a challenge by Heard still could have been troublesome. Lance likely would have needed to stress right-wing positions that could have hurt him in the general election. Additionally, as Heard pointed out, he also would have needed to spend campaign money.
Now, barring an unforeseen late entry into the Republican primary race, Lance can concentrate on the general election.
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