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Gov. Whitman moves toward Senate race

April 8, 1999
Web posted at: 4:54 p.m. EST (2154 GMT)

TRENTON, New Jersey (AllPolitics, April 8) -- Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey's first woman governor, announced Thursday she is forming a campaign committee to finance her planned effort to become the state's first female U.S. senator.

Whitman
New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman will try for the U.S. Senate in 2000  

Whitman, 52, is focusing on the seat held by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg. "This is not an exploratory committee. This is a campaign committee," Whitman told a news conference. "I am obviously serious about contemplating this run and moving forward."

The committee, which filed the necessary papers with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Thursday, will enable Whitman to legally raise funds for the contest, expected to cost at least $10 million per general election candidate.

Prominent Republican fund-raisers Lewis Eisenberg and Candace Straight, two longtime supporters of the governor and other GOP moderates, will head Whitman's fund-raising efforts.

The Republican governor said she won't become fully engaged as a Senate candidate until next year. Until then, Whitman says she'll focus on "being governor."

Whitman, heiress to the Whitman candy fortune, is considered a star of the GOP party as a moderate Republican woman. As governor, Whitman has lowered state taxes, imposed work requirements and time limits for welfare recipients and signed "Megan's Law," the model for states that now require registration of paroled sexual offenders.

With Democrats eager to regain the majority in Congress and Republicans equally eager to hold on to it, Whitman's party has been heavily recruiting her to enter the Senate race.

If Whitman makes a successful run, she will have to give up her current job. Her second term does not expire until 2002, though and under state law she would be barred from seeking a third.

This will be Whitman's second Senate bid. Her challenge to then-incumbent Sen. Bill Bradley in 1990 was unsuccessful but she surprised many by garnering 47 percent of the vote.

In 1993, Whitman unseated Democratic Gov. Jim Florio to become the state's first female governor. She was re-elected in 1997, barely defeating Democratic challenger Jim McGreevey in a surprisingly close race.

A Whitman-Florio rematch is a possibility. Last Friday Florio formed his own exploratory committee for the Senate race.

In that still undeclared Senate race, Whitman has a 51 to 35 percent lead over Florio, according to a March 31 Quinnipiac College poll.

New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in nearly 30 years. Lautenberg announced in February he would not run again in 2000.

Whitman is one of three female governors. The others are Arizona's Jane Dee Hull and New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen. There are nine women in the Senate.


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MORE STORIES:

Thursday, April 8, 1999

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