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Hunterdon County Commissioner John Lanza. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Lanza will not challenge Zwicker in 16th district Senate race

Exit of Hunterdon county commissioner makes Pappas a favorite for a rematch

By David Wildstein, January 13 2023 11:38 am

Hunterdon County Commissioner John E. Lanza will not seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in the 16th district, clearing the way for a rematch between freshman State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Republican Michael Pappas, a former GOP congressman.

Lanza cited business and family responsibilities.  He said his  father and law partner, John R. Lanza, is retiring, and that he has young children and his bid to deliver a fifth consecutive county budget without a tax rate increase.

“Winning a competitive legislative race requires a substantial commitment of time,” Lanza stated.

Zwicker won the Hunterdon-Mercer-Middlesex-Somerset Senate seat in 2021 after Republican Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) retired after 28 years in the legislature.  He defeated Pappas by 5,205 votes, 53%-47%.

Pappas, who had been sidelined for the final weeks of his last campaign with COVID, announced in November that he wanted another shot at the Senate.

While still in his twenties, Pappas won election as Franklin mayor and Somerset County freeholder and prevailed in a hotly contested GOP primary for Congress in New Jersey’s 12th district after Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-Delaware) became a U.S. Senate candidate.  He served one term in Congress before losing to Democrat Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) in 1998.

Lanza, who was re-elected to a fourth term as county commissioner in 2022 and was director last year, had seriously considered a Senate run.

“I want to thank everybody—including Hunterdon GOP Chairman Gabe Plumer and First Vice-Chairman Pat Torpey—who encouraged my candidacy. I am honored by their support,” Lanza stated.  “My decision not to run in 2023 does not foreclose consideration of a future candidacy. The circumstances weighing against a senate run this year can certainly change.”

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