Who Will Challenge Leonard Lance in 2018?

An early backer of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) last month confronted head-on those perked-up critics eager to punish the controversial Republican president and his allies.

It’s a tough district for Democrats, and although Hillary Clinton won it last year over Trump: 49-47.5%, Lance is ubiquitous and constantly in over-time work and full attentive mode to quell any perceived district volatility.

Amid the sign wavers, picketers, political prognosticators, and general gimcrackery of the Trump era, stand several potential challengers on a landscape that stretches across sections of six counties – or at least open to the possibility of a run sometime in the future.

They are:

Zenon Christodoulou

The vice chair of the Somerset County Democratic Committee holds a PhD in economics, runs the family publishing business, and has deep fundraising ties. When the Branchburg surfaced at the microphone at one of Lance’s town halls last month, he turned heads with – amid all the anger – soothing, America-first tones.

Kurt Perhach

A Somerset comer. The Hillsborough resident trained at the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. and worked as an Army prosecutor.  A graduate of William and Mary, he received a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City.

Peter Jacob

Relative to the past performances of other challengers, the Bernie Sanders Democrat posted respectable numbers against Lance in his double digit loss  last year (54-43%). He also acquitted himself admirably in the contest’s lone debate against lance – a trained fist-fighter at any public podium.

Christine Lui Chen

Running this year against state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) in a very tough, Republican-dominant district, Chen may be positioning herself to muscle her way in on a challenge of Lance next year. Her brazen social media kick-off against the fiercely entrenched conservative Doherty impressed party watchers.

Keiona R. Miller

The respected North Plainfield Councilwoman – president of the Somerset Governing Officials Association – has cross-the-aisle appeal. She also gave a stem-winder on the steps of the County Courthouse at a rally attended by hundreds in opposition to Trump’s immigration executive order seeking the ban of travelers from Muslim countries.

Colleen Mahr

Denied an assembly seat in 2015, the mayor of Fanwood has deep institutional party connectivity and substantial goodwill in the party, including close ties to Union County Sheriff Joe Cryan, who’s political star is in ascendancy as he pursues the senate seat in LD20. A competent manager with a loyal fan base, she may be ready to break out under the right circumstances.


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