Democrat Herb Conaway has decided to seek re-election to his longtime seat in the New Jersey Assembly rather than vie for the 7th District's open Senate seat being vacated by Republican Diane Allen.
Conaway confirmed his decision last week after a news conference in Burlington City, where he said he would seek re-election to the seat he has held since 1998. He previously said he planned to consider running for the Senate.
"I know a little bit about running elections in this district, so I like our chances, but like my dad always says, you start at the beginning and run to the tape," Conaway, of Delran, said about the November Assembly race.
His decision appears to clear the path for Assembly colleague Troy Singleton, who also expressed interest in running for the Senate post after Allen announced last month that she planned to retire at the end of her term.
On Monday, Singleton, of Palmyra, said he would seek his party's nomination for the Senate.
The possibility of an inter-party primary between Burlington County's two well-known elected Democrats was a dangerous one that party leaders hoped to avoid.
Among the two, Conaway is the more senior, and he also has close ties to many county party leaders.
Singleton was elected in 2011 after working as legislative director for Conaway and former Assemblyman Jack Conners, and then as deputy executive director of the Assembly Majority Office under former Speaker Joe Roberts. Now a leader with the Northeastern Regional Council of Carpenters union, he is among the Democrats' most prolific fundraisers.
Singleton already has been endorsed by William Mullen, president of the New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council, as well as several of the region's most influential leaders, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd of West Deptford, and U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden.
Conaway did not indicate if Singleton's early support influenced his decision. When asked what prompted his decision, he said: "Nothing in particular."
Conaway's role as chairman of the Assembly Health Committee was a key factor in his decision, especially given uncertainties surrounding health care and the future of the Affordable Care Act, according to sources close to the assemblyman.
"Herb thought long and hard about this decision, and ultimately it came down to: Where can he do the most good for his constituents? The answer to that was clear, as chair of the influential Assembly Health Committee," a source said.
"Especially with the prospect of living in a post-Affordable Care Act world, it's critical that Herb plays a pivotal role in whatever the state's response might be to hundreds of thousands of residents losing health coverage. That's a life-or-death issue for him, and his voice in crafting the Assembly's response will be indispensable."
Conaway is the only practicing physician in the Legislature.
The Burlington County Democratic Committee is expected to meet Tuesday to endorse candidates for governor, Legislature and county offices.
In addition to Conaway, Mount Laurel resident Carol Murphy and Moorestown pediatrician Jennifer Chuang have said they would run for one of the district's two Assembly seats.
On the Republican side, Riverside Township Committeeman Robert Prisco is expected to challenge for the Senate seat, and Octavia Scott and Mike Piper will seek the district's Assembly seats.
The 7th District is made up of nearly all of the Burlington County towns along the Delaware River, as well as Willingboro, Mount Laurel and Moorestown.