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Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry. (Photo: Owen Henry).

Old Bridge mayor will challenge Thompson for GOP Senate nomination in 12th district

With encouragement from GOP leaders, Owen Henry will take on 87-year-old incumbent in primary

By David Wildstein, January 31 2023 6:06 pm

Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry will seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in the 12th district, setting up a primary fight with the 87-year-old incumbent, Samuel Thompson (R-Old Bridge).

“I’ve thought long and hard, and after my conversations with the four county chairs, I look forward to the challenge,” Henry told the New Jersey Globe.  “I have nothing bad to say about Senator Thompson, and I won’t in this campaign.  If it wasn’t me, it was going to be someone else.  I’m humbled to be asked.

Henry said he filed letters of intent with county Republican organizations in Burlington, Monmouth, Middlesex, and Ocean counties and plans to challenge Thompson for organization lines.    All four counties have agreed to keep the Senate seat in Old Bridge, where senatorial courtesy for Middlesex County benefits Republicans statewide.

He is the favorite to win party support in all four counties at conventions this winter, Republican sources confirmed.  Party leaders have asked Thompson to retire voluntarily.

But Thompson, who would be 92 at the end of a four-year term if re-elected, has made it clear he’ll fight to keep his seat.

The 63-year-old Henry is nearly 25 years younger than Thompson, a former Middlesex County GOP chairman who spent fourteen years in the Assembly before unexpectedly finding a Senate seat when redistricting in 2011 drew an elongated, safe Republican district that went from Old Bridge to Burlington County that had no incumbent senator.

That same year, Henry flipped the Old Bridge mayoralty back to Republicans when he defeated interim incumbent Patrick Gillespie in 2011 by a 53%-47% margin.   He was re-elected by fourteen percentage points in 2015 and 2019.  Henry had previously served on the school board.    Old Bridge is New Jersey’s 21st-largest municipality.

In 2017, Thompson faced a primary challenge from Arthur Haney, a former Old Bridge mayor and Middlesex County freeholder.  Haney beat Thompson in Old Bridge by 20 votes out of 2,046 cast, but Thompson won Monmouth and Ocean with 65% each, and Burlington, where he was off the line, by 51 votes, translated into a ten-point win.  (Haney died in 2018  at age 70.) in the end, Thompson bested Haney by 1,404 votes, 60%-40%.

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