Home>Campaigns>Zimmer, former GOP congressman from N.J., to endorse Biden

Former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-Delaware Township) at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey on March 11, 2010. (Photo: Office of the Governor.)

Zimmer, former GOP congressman from N.J., to endorse Biden

Hunterdon County Republican opposed Trump in 2016 primary and general and 2020 primary

By David Wildstein, August 24 2020 11:07 am

Former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-Delaware Township), a former three-term Republican congressman and the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in 1996 and 2008, will endorse Democrat Joe Biden for president today, the Biden campaign said.

The Hunterdon County Republican is one of 27 ex-GOP Senators and House members that will come out for Biden against President Donald Trump on the first day of the 2020 Republican National Convention.

This is 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.

Whitman and Kasich endorsed Biden one week ago in nationally-televised addresses to the Democratic National Convention.

Zimmer endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, in the 2016 general election.

Earlier this year, Zimmer endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in a largely quixotic challenge to Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.

Other Republicans endorsing Biden include former U.S. Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, and John Warner of Virginia.

The 76-year-old Zimmer started out in New Jersey politics as the President of Common Cause New Jersey.

He entered the race to challenge two-term Rep. Helen Meyner (D-Phillipsburg) in 1978, but withdrew from what had become a two-way primary between former State Sen. Bill Schluter (R-Pennington), who had run a strong race against the incumbent in 1976, and former Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Jim Courter (R-Allamuchy).

Zimmer ran for the State Assembly in 1979 against freshman Barbara W. McConnell (D-Flemington).  McConnell had scored a narrow 1,443-vote win over Regina Haig Meredith, the longtime Mercer Republican State Committeewoman and the sister of General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.

McConnell was the top vote-getter in her bid for a second term, outpolling Assemblyman Karl Weidel (R-Pennington) by 632 votes and Zimmer by 1,661.

Zimmer go a second chance to run for the Assembly in 1981 when McConnell gave up her seat to run for governor.

He coasted to an easy victory over anti-tax activist Joseph Shanahan in the GOP primary (whom he had also beaten in 1977), and won the general election by nearly 18,000 votes.

Following the death of State Sen. Walter “Moose” Foran (R-Flemington) in 1986, Zimmer moved up to the State Senate.

Within a few years, Zimmer set his eyes on the congressional seat.

Courter was running for governor in 1989 and Zimmer wanted to be ready in case there was a special election to fill the seat.

Just weeks before the 1990 filing deadline, Courter – who had lost his run for governor to Jim Florio and then was rebuffed by President George Bush in his bid to become U.S. Attorney – announced that he would not seek re-election to a seventh term in Congress.

Zimmer won a three-way GOP primary against Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) and former New York Giants football player Phil McConkey.

In 1996, Zimmer gave up his House seat to run for the United States Senate.

Incumbent Bill Bradley was retiring, and Democrats united behind Rep. Bob Torricelli (D-Englewood) as their candidate.

Zimmer won 68% in a three-way Republican primary against Passaic County Freeholder Richard DuHaime and State Sen. Richard LaRossa (R-Ewing).

In an especially nasty campaign, Torricelli defeated Zimmer by a 53%-43% margin.

Zimmer sought a return to his House seat, now occupied by Democrat Rush Holt (D-Hopewell), in 2000.

He defeated former Rep. Michael Pappas (R-Rocky Hill), who had lost his seat to Holt in 1998, by a 62%-38% margin.

Holt held on in the general election in the closest New Jersey House race since 1956, defeating Zimmer by just 651 votes, 48.7%-48.5%.

Zimmer returned in 2008 to challenge incumbent Frank Lautenberg, then 84, for the U.S. Senate.  He won a close 46%-40% Republican primary against State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), but lost the general by 490,193 votes, 56%-42%.

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