Dunn decides not to run for Congress

Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Mendham), who had been publicly consider a campaign for Congress for the past month, announced today that she will not run for the 11th congressional district against Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) this year.

“I will not be running for Congress in 2022,” Dunn said in a statement. “The outpouring of support and encouragement for me to enter the race for CD-11 has been incredibly humbling and inspiring. I have weighed this decision heavily, as I do with every action I take as a as a civil servant and deputy for District 25.”

Dunn added that while she would have relished the opportunity to “speak truth to power” in Washington D.C., she felt her voice was important in the state legislature as well.

“I am needed in Trenton and I will continue to fight government excesses, our affordability crisis, the inequities in our education system and the constant attacks on parental rights,” she said.

Dunn, 50, a former top aide to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding), began considering a campaign at the behest of several GOP leaders worried the field lacked a clear challenger to take on Sherrill; his entry would have been a game-changer in a Republican primary where none of the six candidates has yet caught fire.

The daughter of a Purple Heart-winning U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, Dunn was raised by a single mother who worked as the only female construction apprentice on a job site. Later, she became a lobbyist for Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and worked for US Senator Arlen Specter, then a Republican from Pennsylvania.

In 2018, Dunn launched an unsuccessful bid for freeholder Morris County, and she again lost in a 2019 Republican primary for State Assembly. But when Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) was elevated to the state Senate to succeed his late father later that year, Dunn won the special convention to replace him and subsequently re-elected in 2020 and 2021.

His Victory 2020which occurred alongside President Joe Biden’s nine-point victory in his district, was notable for giving him the most votes – 64,469 – of any New Jersey Assembly candidate since the system began of modern district in 1973.

Without Dunn in the running, the frontrunners for the nomination are likely Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, Morris County Republican State Committee Member Larry Casha and former Passaic County Assistant District Attorney , Paul DeGroot.

DeGroot won the Republican organizing line in Passaic County and raised $112,115 in Q4, more than anyone else in the field.

Selen, a former mayor of Chatham, won a countywide election in 2020 with 52% of the vote after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson to carry Morris County. He also has the support of many local elected officials in the borough, but it was badly reassembled in the 4th quarter.

A former Chairman of Kinnelon Council, Casha entered the race in October and raised $94,675. He briefly challenged Sherrill in 2020, but dropped out of the race after Republican leaders cleared the ground for attorney Rosemary Becchi, who moved from the 7th to the 11th district.

Also in the running is former Ridgefield Park councilman Robert Kovic, who has the approval of State Sen. Ed Durr (R-Swedesboro) but failed to understand otherwise; Lawyer Larry Friscia; and Toby Anderson, US Army Veteran.

Three other candidates formerly running in the 11th have moved to different constituencies: 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo in the 7th arrondissementformer Republican National Committee staffer Tom Toomey on the 6thand real estate agent Patrick Quinn on the 9th. A fourth, screenwriter Hillery Brotschol, completely ended his campaign.

One final potentially strong candidate, Morris County surrogate Heather Darling, opted against a race.

Whoever ultimately wins the Republican primary will face Sherrill in a district that has been redesigned to be significantly more Democratic; by winning dark blue towns like Millburn and Maplewood, Biden’s margin in the district has been increased to around 17 points, from seven currently.

Sherrill was first elected in 2018, when Frelinghuysen elected to retire and Sherrill overturned his seat by a dominating 15-point margin against Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains). She won her second term against Becchi in 2020 by a narrow margin of seven points.

For his second re-election campaign this year, Sherrill raised $2,956,409 in 2021 and sits on a gargantuan $5 million war chest.

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