Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato will seek the open State Senate seat in the 9th legislative district, making him the prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring five-term State Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey), the New Jersey Globe has confirmed from three sources with direct knowledge of Amato’s plans.
Amato is expected to have the support of Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor), who had briefly mulled a Senate run.
The move will place one of Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore’s strongest allies into the State Senate.
Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnn Gove (R-Long Beach) do not have a lock on re-election to the Assembly. They are expected to face challenges at the Ocean GOP screening committee and convention for the organization line.
Former Barnegat Mayor John Novak has been discussing an Assembly bid for the last few months and had told party leaders that he expected to run with Berkeley Councilman James Byrnes.
“Now with Senator Connors retiring and Carmen Amato deciding to run for that seat, things could get interesting and quite promising for Ocean County conservatives,” Novak said. “Barnegat and Berkeley see eye to eye on so many things. I am privileged to count Mayor Carmen Amato as a dear friend and honored to run on the same ticket with him.”
The 9th district Senate seat has been in the hands of the Connors family since 1981 legislative redistricting gave Ocean County another district. Leonard Connors won the post that year, and Chris Connors succeeded his father in 2007.
Amato served on the school board from 2000 to 2006, as a councilman from 2006 to 2012, and has been the mayor for the last ten years.
His ascension to the Senate is no surprise and now the real drama will shift to a fight for the two Assembly seats.
Novak thinks Rumpf and Gove have not been aggressive enough in Trenton.
“Being in the minority party doesn’t give license to just look down at your shoes, head bowed with hands wringing and crying ‘woe unto me and woe unto us,’” Novak said. He said a ticket with Amato and Byrnes would bring “a much-needed warrior ethos to Trenton.”