Former Philadelphia Eagles football star, Republican Rep. Jon Runyan answers a question at his campaign headquarters in Marlton, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.
Mel Evans/ap

N.J. Republican bows out, giving Dems prime pick up opportunity

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New Jersey Republican Rep. Jon Runyan will not seek a third term in Congress, giving Democrats a prime pickup opportunity in 2014 in a district President Obama won last year.

“After a great deal of thought and discussions with my family, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2014,” Runyan said in a statement. “Politics shouldn’t be a career and I never intended to make it one.  While it has truly been an honor to serve the people of New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, at this stage in my life, and more importantly, the lives of my three children, spending time with them is my top priority.  As I serve out the rest of my term, I will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of South Jersey.”

Runyan, a former offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, had served just two terms in Congress after beating Democratic Rep. John Adler in the 2010 GOP wave. The south Jersey seat in the Philadelphia suburbs is a top battleground, and one of just 17 seats held by Republicans that the president carried in 2012. While Obama won the district with 52%, Runyan won re-election with 54% over Shelley Adler, the widow of the former congressman he defeated in 2010. Adler died suddenly of a heart ailment in April 2011.

Runyan’s decision comes as a surprise, though Democrats had hoped to give him a tough race after recruiting Freeholder Aimee Belgard into the race in the wake of the federal government shutdown. If Democrats hope to win back the 17 seats they need to take control of Congress, opportunities like Runyan’s now-open seat are must-wins.

Runyan was one of only a handful of Republicans calling for an end to the government shutdown that was largely blamed on House Republicans. 

“Enough is enough. Put a clean [continuing resolution] on the floor, and let’s get on with the business we were sent to do,” Runyan said in a statement in early October.

Democrats heralded Runyan’s decision as a sign of more problems for the GOP, and promsied to play in the swing-district. 

“Congressman Jon Runyan saw the writing on the wall in the Virginia governor’s race: Swing voters want no part of the reckless and irresponsible agenda that House Republicans have been pushing for years. Congressman Runyan is the 14th House Republican to bail from Speaker Boehner’s sinking ship, and his retirement makes this swing district even more competitive,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement. “The voters of New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District will have a chance in 2014 to elect a problem-solving Democrat in this toss-up district that President Obama won twice and that sent Democrats to represent them in the U.S. Senate.”

But Republicans are in no way ceding this race, and even tied the Democrats’ top recruit to their unsuccessful gubernatorial nominee on Tuesday night. Early names that surfaced as Runyan replacements, according to GOP sources, include state Sen. Dawn Addiego, state Sen. Chris Connors, state Sen. Diane Allen and former Burlington County Freeholder Audrey Fenton.

“While this has always been a competitive district, both Jon Runyan and Chris Christie have proven that Republicans win here,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said. “While we will not take this seat for granted, we will keep this seat in the Republican column, especially with Democrats already lining-up behind a Barbara Buono-style candidate, who will have to run from her own record as well as Obamacare and the president’s sinking approval rating in New Jersey.”

Runyan becomes the fifth congressman to announce his retirement this cycle, and he joins Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin as another two-term representative who bowed out just years into their congressional career. 

New Jersey

N.J. Republican bows out, giving Dems prime pick up opportunity

Updated