Zimmer delivers concession speech to somber crowd
BRIDGEWATER — During the reception for U.S. Senate Republican contender Dick Zimmer, the mood of the crowd did not match the scenery.
Amidst beer, wine and balloons at Elk Lodge #1068 in Bridgewater, local mayors and Congress representatives expressed dismal views even before results showed Zimmer lost the election.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg was considered to have a distinct advantage.
"Unless you can shake things up, the blue person usually wins, [in New Jersey]," said Mayor Brian D. Levine of Franklin Township.
Lautenberg had the benefit of good name recognition and being an incumbent, mayor of Westfield Andy Skibitsky said.
"The odds are skewed against Zimmer," he said.
In addition to New Jersey's Democrat voting tendency, local politicians agreed Lautenberg had a head start in financial backing and campaigning due to a shortened campaign period.
After Republican businessman Andy Unanue withdrew his Senate bid in April, Zimmer took his place and had only less than seven months to raise awareness to his campaign and to raise money.
"He was a late entrant to the race so he didn't have the budget the Democrats have," Brian Spearea, the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress District 12 in 2004, said.
Zimmer couldn't break into the expensive television advertising market of either New York City, which serves northern New Jersey voters, or the South Jersey-serving Philadelphia market, Spearea said.
Instead, Zimmer focused on local means of gathering support, such as knocking on doors.
"Dick certainly gave a good fight," Spearea said. "I think he did it to help the Party, he stepped up at a time when the Party needed a leader…. I think he should be commended for that."
During his speech Zimmer reiterated how he stood on the issue of the New Jersey political scene.
"Though I will not be senator this year, I intend to work in every way possible to make sure our future will be brighter, and I know you will, too," Zimmer said.
Zimmer shared his ideas for the future of government.
"The goal must be a leaner, more thoughtful, less expensive government," he said.
Zimmer said he campaigned to halt the state government's wasteful spending and high taxes.
When he entered the election, he thought he had a good chance of winning. Unfortunately, he said, he did not have the resources to spread his message as far as Lautenberg.
Zimmer said he doesn't see himself running for another political position in the future.
In addition, the economical decline pushed down many Republican candidates —and Zimmer said he fell in favor along with the presidential nominee.
"That, I think, knocked the wind out of many candidates, including McCain," Zimmer said. "The polling numbers got worse because of the general political climate."
Zimmer also said he wished he could have debated Lautenberg in a televised exchange sooner. Their only debate occurred on NJN the Saturday before Election Day.
Spearea said this was a wake-up call for the Republican Party. Their local, grassroots campaigns were the most successful this year, and this is where the party should focus its efforts.
Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, agreed.
"That's what survived this year for the Republican Party, that's what was successful," he said. "We have to respect and build on that tradition and also that success."
Although Zimmer faced defeat, the reception mood picked up when results showed an incumbent for U.S. Congress, Leonard Lance, R-23, won his election against Democratic contender Linda Stender.
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