Update: Somerset County Republicans awarded the organization line for State Senate in the 16th district to former Rep. Michael Pappas. The Assembly candidates on the line will be Manville Councilman Joe Lukac and Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education President Vincent Panico.
Michael Pappas, a former one-term congressman from Somerset County, will be the Republican candidate for State Senate in the 16th legislative district.
Pappas has decided to run for the open seat of Republican State Sen. Christopher Bateman, who announced last month that he would not seek re-election to a fifth term.
He is now the presumptive nominee after two other candidates, former Rep. Dick Zimmer and former Montgomery Mayor Ted Maciag, withdrew from the race today, party officials told the New Jersey Globe.
Pappas will run with the endorsement of Tim Howes, the Somerset County Republican chairman.
The 60-year-old Pappas was a political boy wonder in the early 1980s.
He was elected to the Franklin Township Council at age 21, became mayor at 22, and a Somerset County freeholder at age 24.
His time in Congress ended abruptly in 1998 after he went on the House floor and sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Kenneth Starr” in support of a special prosecutor investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton. The stunt backfired on Pappas, who lost 50%-47% to a virtually unknown Democrat, Rush Holt.
Pappas held a post at the U.S. Small Business Administration during George W. Bush’s presidency. He later returned to New Jersey and became the High Bridge borough administrator and became administrator for Bridgewater, the largest municipality in Somerset County, in 2020.
Zimmer’s withdrawal ends a possible face-off between the two 1990s era congressmen for a seat in the New Jersey State Senate is on. The two ran against each other in a 2000 GOP House primary.
The 76-year-old Zimmer held the seat from 1990 to 1996, when he left to run for the U.S. Senate. Pappas succeeded him in 1996 but lost his bid for re-election to a second term in 1998 against Democrat Rush Holt.
Zimmer defeated Pappas in that primary but went on to narrowly lose the general election to Holt.
Last summer, Zimmer was one of 27 former Republican U.S. Senators and House members to jump party lines and endorse Joe Biden on the first day of the Republican National Convention.
Several Republican leaders say that Zimmer was a non-starter for organization lines after his endorsement of Biden.
Zimmer had also asked to be considered for an Assembly seat if the party went in a different direction for Senate, but has also withdrawn that bid as well.
Maciag endorsed Pappas after just one week in the race.
“Mike Pappas is the candidate to run and win with Jack Ciattarelli in November,” he said.
Somerset County has not elected a Democrat to the State Senate since 1902, but the county and the 16th legislative district have shifted heavily Democratic over the last six years.
Biden carried the 16th district by 28,165 votes, 61%-38%, over Trump. Both the Assembly seats in the district are occupied by Democrats, and all countywide offices in Somerset are held by Democrats.
The 16th has 20,732 more Democrats than Republicans.