Berkeley Township Mayor Carmen Amato has formally entered the race to succeed Christopher Connors as the state senator from the 9th legislative district and is the strong favorite to win the Ocean County GOP organization line in a district that is solidly Republican.
“I believe my service for the past eleven years as mayor of Berkeley Township will provide great insight into the issues and concerns of all of the people who choose to call this magnificent area of the state of New Jersey home,” Amato said in a short statement.
Amato enters the race with the support of Brian Rumpf, an assemblyman for nearly 20 years and a former mayor of Little Egg Harbor. Rumpf had been viewed as a potential Senate candidate.
“Having known Carmen Amato for over 25 years, I believe Carmen to have the passion, integrity, and knowledge necessary to be a dynamic choice to succeed my long-time partner in the ninth district, Senator Chris Connors,” Rumpf said. “ I look forward to working with Carmen to continue the unprecedented constituent services for which the 9th district legislative office has long been known.”
While Amato is viewed the front-runner for the Senate, Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach) could face a challenge for party support. Barnegat Mayor John Novack and Berkeley Councilman James Byrnes have already expressed interest in seeking Assembly seats.
Connors served as mayor of Lacey and as an assemblyman from 1990 to 2008 when he succeeded his father in the Senate. Leonard Connors had served as mayor of Surf City for 50 years and as a state senator from 1982 to 2008.
Amato is a stanch ally of the new Ocean County Republican Chairman, George Gilmore.