Jon Runyan will not seek re-election; Belgard to run

U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan and Democratic Burlington County freeholder Aimee Belgard

Jonathan Tamari / Inquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, a Burlington County Republican, will not seek re-election next year, he announced Wednesday morning.

"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 released this morning. "Politics shouldn't be a career and I never intended to make it one."

Runyan, 39, is in just his second term in office after a long NFL career, including a prominent stint with the Eagles. But he has grown frustrated with life in Congress, and particularly the tea party wing that has held increasing sway in the House GOP, according to two New Jersey Republican sources.

"There's no common sense," one source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Runyan had not yet made an official announcement.

Aimee Belgard, a Democratic Burlington County freeholder, quickly announced that she would run.

"I've decided that I can't sit on the sidelines and watch the reckless partisan brinksmanship that brought the shutdown and continues to threaten our economy and our community," Belgard said in a news release.

After Runyan's announcement, Crystal Ball - a political handicapping site at the University of Virginia - moved the seat from "safe Republican" to "toss-up." So did the Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report.

President Obama won the district last year -- doing slightly better than he did nationwide.

Republicans, though, noted that the district has also gone for Runyan and Gov. Christie.

The GOP is confident it can win, "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," said Ian Prior, a spokesman for Republicans' Congressional campaign arm.

Runyan called it "an honor" to serve a district that reaches into Burlington and Ocean counties, but cited a desire to spend more time with his three children.

"At this stage in my life, and more importantly, the lives of my three children, spending time with them is my top priority," Runyan said in his release.

The Burlington County Times and Star-Ledger first reported his decision.

But one New Jersey Republican said Runyan's frustration began early this year when conservatives blocked a vote on aid for superstorm Sandy – a storm that hammered his district – and continued during the recent government shutdown, which he opposed. Another GOP source said he had become frustrated with Washington's gridlock.

Belgard pointed to those same incidents in announcing her run.

"We have more political gamesmanship and irresponsible discord than I can ever remember in Washington," Belgard said in her announcement. "We need a change from the ego-driven politics that shutdown the government and brought our nation to the brink of default."

A formal announcement is planned for Thursday.

Runyan’s seat has long been held by Republicans, though he seized it back from one of the few Democrats to have success there, the late John Adler, who briefly held the seat.

Runyan was already a top target for Democrats in 2014, though he was favored.

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