Dick Zimmer, a 76-year-old former Republican congressman who endorsed Joe Biden for president against Donald Trump, will run for the open State Senate seat in the 16th district, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Republican leaders confirmed that Zimmer filed a letter of intent to run for the open seat of Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg). Bateman announced his retirement last week.
Biden carried the 16th district by 28,165 votes, 61%-38%, but Republican county committee members in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties might be challenged to pick an prominent anti-Trump Republican who is 76 to be their Senate candidate.
Zimmer has also asked to be considered for one of the two Assembly seats in the 16th, if they go in a different direction for the Senate. Some counties won’t allow seeking two offices at a single convention.
Last summer, Zimmer was one of 27 former Republican U.S. Senators and House members to jump party lines and endorse Biden on the first day of the Republican National Convention.
That was the fourth time Zimmer has stood firm against Trump.
In 2016, he endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the Republican presidential nomination and ran on a statewide slate of delegates that included former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
Zimmer endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, in the 2016 general election.
Earlier last year, Zimmer endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in a largely quixotic challenge to Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Zimmer was viewed as an exceptional campaigner and prodigious fundraiser — the kind of right-of-center Republican who was able to win elections in New Jersey. He balanced some moderate views with his support of House Speaker Newt Gingrich during his final term in Congress.
Zimmer represented New Jersey’s 12th district in Congress from 1990 to 1996, when he gave up his seat to run for the U.S. Senate. He lost to Democrat Bob Torricelli by a 53%-43% margin.
In 2000, Zimmer sought a political comeback in a bid for his old House seat. He lost to Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell), then a freshman Democrat, by a razor-thin 651-vote margin, 48.7% to 48.5%.
He ran again for U.S. Senate in 2008. He won the GOP primary, but lost the general election to incumbent Frank Lautenberg by a 56%-42% margin.
A former Johnson & Johnson lawyer, New Jersey Common Cause president, and Delaware Township farmer, Zimmer won a State Assembly seat on his second try in 1981 and moved up to the Senate in a 1987 special election following the death of Moose Foran.
After Rep. Jim Courter (R-Allamuchy) announced his retirement in 1990, Zimmer ran for the open House seat. He won the Republican primary by a 38%-31% margin over former New York Giant Phil McConkey, with then-Assemblyman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) finishing third with 29%.