SOMERSET HILLS NJ - Congressman Leonard Lance (R7th Dist.) has been the focus of protests and has faced down angry liberals at two raucous town hall meetings at Raritan Valley Community College. However, the five-term incumbent Republican may need to look over his right shoulder, as well as his left, because Roxbury businessman Craig Heard may be gearing up to challenge him in a Republican primary.
Lance survived a 3-way jungle primary in 2016, earning 53 percent of the vote against two challengers. But he has struggled in GOP primaries; he placed third in his first effort in 1996, losing to Mike Pappas and John Bennett. He emerged with the nomination in 2008 ,against a full field of challengers, with 41 percent of the Republican vote. As an incumbent, he has faced primary challenges in every election cycle.
Insiders say David Larsen, who has unsuccessfully challenged Lance over the past decade, will not run again in 2018. There is talk, however, that Heard, of Succasunna, will run again. Heard finished third in 2016, but he earned respect in Republican circles.
Some point to an undercurrent in the Republican Party, which may encourage Heard to take on the not-Lance mantle.
To many GOPers, the Lance name is synonymous with "Republican Establishment' because the Lance family has been a fixture in GOP politics for decades. Lance is the third generation in his family to serve as a legislator, following in the footsteps of his father, Wesley Lance, and his great uncle, H. Kiefer Lance. Lance has served as a legislator for 26 years, having begun in the New Jersey Assembly.
Heard has made no announcement, but he looks a lot like a candidate. His campaign website is still live as is his campaign Facebook page. Indeed, on the campaign Facebook page, there is an interesting post:
"Just did poll of District 7 in NJ to see profile of Lance and me running against him in 2018 Primary.... Results soon.... Polled 40,000+."
The primary is seven months away.