ROXBURY, NJ - Asserting it's more important to keep Democrats at bay than to become a Congressman, Succasunna resident Craig Heard said Monday he will not wage a primary election challenge this year against U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.).

Heard, who unsuccessfully tried to beat Lance in the 2016 GOP primary, had been weighing another run against the 5-term incumbent. But in a press release he circulated late Monday, the businessman said he "has chosen to devote his time to uniting the (Republican) party" instead of taking on Lance again. 

The statement said Heard feels New Jersey "has not had a strong united Republican party coaltion for quite some time," adding that he hopes to stay involved in politics to "encourage support for President Trump's policies along with promoting the GOP candidates for state and federal office."

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Heard said he will remain on the Roxbury/Mount Arlington Consolidation Study Commission. He is chairman of the panel which, for the past three years, has been studying the pros and cons of service consolidation and sharing between the two municipalities.

"Running against Lance in the primary will require significant funds for both the incumbent and myself, where those resources could be better used toward the general election to insure a Republican victory in November," Heard said in the statement. "This, I feel, is more important than my personal ambitions to run for Congress at this time. Although Lance and I may differ on some positions, the priority needs to be keeping control of the Republican House of Representatives. Differences can be negotiated and reconciled later."

The 7th District includes Hunterdon County and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties. Lance was first elected to the post in 2008.