So far, all three candidates for the 2020 Republican U.S. Senate nomination to challenge Cory Booker have run statewide before.
Tricia Flanagan and Stuart Meissner ran as independent candidates for the United States Senate, while Hirsh Singh sought the Republican nomination for governor.
Flanagan ran against Bob Menendez and Bob Hugin in 2018. Flanagan received 16,1010 votes (0.15%) and lost by 1,695,553.
In the 2013 special election for Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat, Meissner won 2,051 votes statewide against Cory Booker and Steve Lonegan (0.15%). He finished 738,691 votes behind Booker.
Singh finished third in the 2017 Republican gubernatorial primary. He received 23,728 votes (9.76%) and lost to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno by 90,118 votes.
If Flanagan or Meissner win, they would become the first person to win a major party nomination for statewide office in New Jersey after having previously run as an independent.
Murray Sabrin, a Ramapo College economics professor, won 4.72% of the vote as the Libertarian candidate for governor in 1997. He became the first independent candidate to qualify for matching funds and earn a place in the gubernatorial debate.
After that, Sabrin ran statewide three times in Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate – 2000, 2008 and 2014 — and finished all three times.
Richard Pezzullo, a conservative independent gubernatorial candidate against Christine Todd Whitman, Jim McGreevey, and Sabrin in 1997 – he won 1.4% of the statewide vote – lost Republican primaries for State Senate in 2003 and U.S. Senate in 2014. In that race, Pezzullo came within 4,598 votes of defeating Jeff Bell for the chance to take on Booker.
Republicans have nominated a U.S. Senate candidate with previous statewide experience twice in the last three elections: Bell against Booker in 2014 and Dick Zimmer to take on Lautenberg in 2008.
Bell had defeated incumbent Clifford Case in the 1978 GOP primary and lost the general to Bill Bradley. Zimmer ran for Bradley’s open Senate seat in 1996 and lost to Bob Torricelli.
New Jersey has not elected a Republican U.S. Senator since 1972, when Case won his fourth and last term. Only Hawaii has gone longer.