The GOP appears to have pulled one out of the fire in the New Jersey Senate race, as they now have a pretty decent challenger to Sen. Frank Lautenberg ready to run.
Biotech executive John Crowley is expected to enter the New Jersey Senate race against Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, according to a source familiar with his thinking. It would give Republicans a candidate with a compelling personal narrative who also has deep pockets to self-finance a campaign.
His pending announcement, which could come as soon as this weekend, will set up a high-profile election year in the Garden State, where Lautenberg is already facing a primary challenge from Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews.
Recent history has not been kind to Republicans in statewide races in New Jersey; although there have been a number of close calls, they haven't won a Senate race there since 1972. I don't think it's exceptionally likely that they will reverse that trend in the current political climate. But Crowley does have an exceptional bio:
Those military obligations are to the U.S. Naval Reserve, in which Crowley is an intelligence officer. Last year he completed a six-month tour of duty at the Center for Navy Intelligence in Virginia, an assignment for which he volunteered.
His life story is literally destined for Hollywood. A book has already been written about how, after his children Megan and Patrick were diagnosed in 1998 with Pompe disease, he raised more than $100 million in investment capital for a series of biotech companies researching a cure. Actor Harrison Ford optioned the screen rights.
Novazayme Pharmaceuticals, the start-up biotech he founded in 2000 with an Oklahoma physician, was bought by a larger company, Genzyme, which developed a treatment for Pompe disease. In 2005, Crowley became president of Amicus, which is researching better treatments for Pompe disease and other rare genetic disorders.
At one point, doctors told Crowley and his wife their children might not live to celebrate their second birthdays. Megan is now 10, Patrick is 8.
Lautenberg also faces a primary challenge from Congressman Rob Andrews, who has been looking to move up for some time.
This isn't a top-tier race right now, although it could get problematic fairly soon if the Democratic primary gets ugly. It is probably their second-best pickup opportunity after Louisiana (which is pretty sad, actually).
Crowley is actually one of the better NRSC recruits this year, and the Republicans are certainly excited about him (John McCain personally recruited him to run). Of course, they've often been excited about New Jersey in the past, and it hasn't worked out for them lately.
I'm certainly disappointed that we'll be facing Crowley in November, and not the legendary Andy Unanue.