SOMERSET HILLS NJ - Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-7) has been the focus of protests and has faced down angry constituents at two raucous town hall meetings at Raritan Valley Community. However, the five-term incumbent Republican may need to look over his right shoulder as well as his left because Morris County businessman Craig Heard may be gearing up to challenge Lance in a Republican Primary.
Lance survived a three-way jungle primary in 2016, earning fifty-three percent of the vote against two challengers. Lance has struggled in Republican 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 forty-one percent of the Republican vote. As an incumbent, he has faced primary challenges in every election cycle.
Insiders say that David Larsen, who has unsuccessfully challenged Lance over the past decade, will not run again in 2018. There is talk, however, that Morris County businessman Craig Heard will run. Heard finished third in 2016, but he earned some 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 Republican 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. Congressman Lance has served as a legislator for twenty-six years, when he began in the New Jersey Assembly.
Heard has made no announcement, but he looks a lot like a candidate. Heard's campaign website is still live. His campaign Facebook page is still live. 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.