Congressman Leonard Lance has not exactly had the easiest electoral path during his time in Congress. Since being elected in 2008, he has had to not only on focus on a general election campaigns but even more contentious and heated primaries. In 2010 and 2012, Lance found himself being challenged from the right by David Larsen. Larsen, a Tea Party favorite, loss by 25% in 2010 and 22% in 2012. Those losses to Lance have not discouraged him because Larsen feels he can still defeat Lance and will give it another try in 2014.
Will the third time be the charm? Based on the first two attempts, it will not be an easy road while Lance will still need to put the same amount of effort into this primary as previous ones because it would not be unprecedented for the incumbent congressman to lose based on outcomes around the country the last few electoral cycles.
As Larsen would express,
This is God's country out here, and I don't see Representative Lance as a leader. I am with the likes of (U.S. Senator) Ted Cruz and (U.S. Senator) Rand Paul. I'm the true conservative in this race. He (Lance) voted to continue Obamacare, and to continue out of control spending by raising the debt ceiling. How does he call himself a principled conservative?
Larsen would add.
Mr. Lance is for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and I'm 100 percent against it. He's willing to consider a number of other gun-control measures as well this year, and I am a firm supporter of the Second Amendment.
With Larsen looking to defeat Lance and throwing verbal jabs his way, Lance's staff would respond.
For Todd Mitchell, Lance's chief of staff,
Larsen needs a different playbook and a new set of issues if he wants to beat Leonard Lance. The congressman defeated Mr. Larsen under the new district map in 2012 and put a real beating on him (referencing the 22 point win). David Larsen has falsely attacked Congressman Lance repeatedly on the issues. The congressman was endorsed by the N.R.A., and he has voted numerous times against President Obama's cap-and-trade initiative.
Mitchell would continue,
Congressman Lance has been on the front lines of the Republican effort in the House to defund, dismantle, cut and change Obamacare as a member of the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce committee, voting almost 50 times to do so. If Mr. Larsen wants to get beat again, that's fine."
In a bit a twist for some, not all conservatives are going to firmly be in Larsen's corner. Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is from the 7th Congressional District and he has been a leading person that Republican candidates look to obtain the backing of due to his base. As was noted during his attempt to become U.S. Senator earlier this year, he is far from a moderate and is a favorite of Tea Party members in the state so one might think he would endorse Larsen's campaign. However, Lonegan is putting his support behind the incumbent congressman.
Leonard Lance has been a good ally of mine over many years, including way back in 2000 when I launched the lawsuit against then-Gov. Christie Todd Whitman over the state borrowing without voter approval. Because Leonard was on my side in that lawsuit, he lost his leadership position in the Legislature as punishment. Loyalty is important to me.
Lance endorsed Lonegan's U.S. Senate campaign; a move Larsen has criticized as nothing more than a political move knowing Lance might be challenged again in a primary and would look for Lonegan's support.
That comment drew the following comment from Lonegan:
What David Larsen needs to do is to go run for town council and serve in office before he goes running for Congress. There is no better place to learn about government than on the local level. I'll bet you if (New Jersey Republican) Steve Forbes had been a councilman in Bedminster before he ran for president, he would have been a better candidate.
At the moment, there is not any buzz on the Democratic side and it could be a similar script as 2010 and 2012 with a victory against Larsen in June leading to another one in November next year. Expect Larsen to only pick up his rhetoric as the calendar turns to 2014 and the primary race truly heats up. Also, if Democrats are smart; they should use 2010 and 2012 as a guide and select someone who could use anything Lance might say to win the primary against him and gain vital moderate votes to create a closer contest. With individuals like Lonegan already in his corner, Lance at the moment looks poised to repeat the same successful formula against Larsen who is hoping the third time is the charm and a different outcome occurs in June.