Two sources told the New Jersey Globe that Republican operatives in the state are seeking to recruit Assemblyman Ryan Peters to take on Rep. Andy Kim in the third congressional district.
Originally, GOP fundraiser Frank Sadeghi was slated to run, putting at least $2 million of his own funds into the race, the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
But those plans changed after now-former Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore was convicted on federal tax charges last month.
Sadeghi is now seeking Gilmore’s spot at the head of New Jersey’s most powerful county Republican organization, and sources say he does not intend to run if he wins the chairmanship.
The fundraiser faces Frank Holman the head of a politically active accounting firm and the son of a former Republican state chairman in his bid to fill Gilmore’s seat.
The shift in leadership has led to Sadeghi and Gilmore, who sources have said is still actively involved in Ocean County Republican politics, pushing for Peters to drop his bid for re-election in the Assembly and create an exploratory committee to contend with Kim’s fundraising figures.
The congressman reported having $503,254.81 in his war chest at the end of the first quarter of 2019. He raised more than $5 million during his 2018 campaign.
But, Peters indicated he has little interest in following that path—or in leaving the Assembly.
“Right now, I’m extremely focused on 2019 and winning legislative district 8. I think our state has a lot of issues right now, has been described as a fiscal death spiral, and I think it’s my obligation to stay in Trenton and combat the Murphy midterms and everything we can do to keep our state in good budget health, vote against the ever-increasing taxes,” Peters said.
Peters is running for Assembly alongside former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield against Assemblyman Joe Howarth, who lost party support after State Sen. Dawn Addiego defected to the Democratic party earlier this year.
Republican leaders in Burlington believe Howarth attempted to join the senator on the other side of the aisle. Howarth has said he did not attempt to switch parties.
Danny Diaz, who managed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, is said to be among the operatives seeking to lead a Peters congressional campaign.
For now, it seems like Diaz and other operatives will have to keep waiting.
“Right now, no, my mind is not on any congressional seat,” Peters said. “It’s on winning the Assembly spot and keeping the privilege of representing New Jerseyans in the eighth legislative district as I have for the past year and a half.”