Had the late Senator Frank Lautenberg lived to complete his term, Geraldo Rivera might have been the Republican nominee to be New Jersey’s junior member of the United States Senate. Cory Booker would still be mayor of Newark and the two celebrities would have been engaged now in an expensive high profile race with national implications.
In early 2013, Rivera was very publicly exploring the possibility of running for Launtenberg’s seat. Booker had just declined to challenge Governor Chris Christie’s reelection bid and announced that he would run for Lautenberg’s seat. Booker’s announcement came before the ailing Lautenberg’s announcement that he would not seek another term.
Lautenberg’s June 2013 death and Christie’s call for an October Special Election to fill the seat scuttled the plans of the television and radio personality/journalist to enter politics on a national level. He was not able to rearrange his life or gain support of his family in the short time required to compete in an August GOP primary.
What might have been a high profile exciting battle between Rivera and Booker this fall is now reduced to bragging rights as to which man will raise more money for his respective Party in Monmouth County. Monmouth County Republican Chairman Shaun Golden will announce this afternoon that Rivera is the keynote speaker at the GOP Fundraising Gala on October 15 at the Navesink Country Club. Rivera’s office and Golden both confirmed that Geraldo is coming.
The bar is low for Rivera to beat Booker in the Monmouth fundraising contest. The celebrity senator only raised $25,000 for the Monmouth Democrats at his Wall Township event in July. Rivera should easily raise over $100,000 for Golden’s coffers, maybe $200,000. At $300 per head, 500 people yields $150,000.
Not your typical milquetoast Republican, Rivera’s return to Monmouth County —he’s a former Middletown resident and the former owner of The Two River Times– to enter the political fray, has the potential to breathe new life into the New Jersey Republican Party which is stifled Christie’s national ambitions. If he so desires, Rivera would immediately be a top tier contender for the GOP Gubernatorial nomination, either in 2016 or 2017, depending on when Christie resigns. Many high level New Jersey Republicans have already resigned themselves to losing the governor’s office to Senate President Steve Sweeney or Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop after Christie is gone. Rivera could change that and add an unpredictable dynamic to the next governor’s race.
If Rivera decides to test the waters before running a statewide race–something he confronted and passed on last year– he could run for Congress in 2016. The 9th Congressional District seat could be vacant, assuming Rep Bill Pascrell is reelected this year and decides not to serve into his 80’s. Rivera lives in the 9th. Or, Rivera could move back to Monmouth County to unseat Rep Frank Pallone, if Pallone is reelected this year. That is a race I would love to see.
Golden wouldn’t speculate on Rivera’s political ambitions. “Geraldo is really looking forward being in Monmouth County, telling stories and having a fun night,” Golden said, “We’ll probably attract new people to this event in addition to our tried and true supporters.”
At the very least, recruiting Rivera for his major fundraiser is consistent with Golden’s promises during the Chairman’s race last spring to expand the Party’s base, diversity demographically and raise significant amounts of money.