Eight-term U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, looks like he may face no party-backed Democratic opposition in his race for re-election this November.
Unofficial petitions filed Monday with the state Division of Elections show the only candidate to file as a Democrat for the congressional seat is Gary Stein, a Mullica Township resident who has run in past elections as a third-party or independent candidate.
"This is quite a responsibility that's been placed on my shoulders," Stein, 53, said by phone Monday.
Stein, who mounted an independent challenge to Ventnor resident LoBiondo in 2008 and in 2009 ran for governor in a field of outsider candidates, has used his campaigns to call for closing the U.S.-Mexico border and taking steps to fight Mexican corruption.
He filed 346 petition signatures with the Division of Elections, against LoBiondo's 843, but has not received support from any of the county Democratic organizations in the 2nd District. Candidates must file a minimum of 200 signatures, which must be certified.
The 2nd Congressional District comprises all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties, and parts of Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties.
Cumberland County Democratic Chairman Lou Magazzu confirmed that no Democratic challenger had stepped forward was correct.
"I know of no one who has filed to run for the Democratic party," he said by phone Tuesday, declining to comment further.
LoBiondo's campaign spokesman, Kevin Tomafsky, said Tuesday evening he would wait to consult with the congressman before issuing comment.
But one of LoBiondo's two stated opponents in the Republican primary seized on the news.
"This isn't a season for Democrats," said Linda Biamonte, a tea-party backed challenger from Egg Harbor Township who filed 493 signatures to run in the Republican primary.
Also seeking the Republican nomination is Donna Ward, a Mantua, Gloucester County, resident who challenged LoBiondo in the 2008 Republican primary. She filed 285 signatures.
In previous years, LoBiondo's seat in the 2nd District has been a target for unsuccessful Democratic challenges and third-party or independent candidates running campaigns with limited funds.
Stein said he does not expect to raise much of a war chest, as cleaning offices for a living has not given him much saved up for his political run.
"We're just trying to pay our bills every month," he said. "We're not raising money for this."
But the prospect of being the only challenger to LoBiondo in November makes him delighted, he said. "I have a feeling some others will run as independents, thinking that this so-called lightweight candidate will be running," he said. "But then you come back to what I was saying a few months ago during the governor's race, that independents don't get much of a chance."
"I really could be the main choice. So I have to decide how best to make my case," he said.
Having run as a Republican in the 2009 gubernatorial race, Stein confirmed he had changed his registration to Democrat a month ago.
"I had a feeling I might be the only one," he said Monday evening.
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