New Jersey GOP Scrambles To Find Lautenberg Challenger

The ongoing saga to find a credible Republican candidate to challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J) has been a topsy-turvy ride for the GOP, with less than two weeks to go until the state’s filing deadline.

The latest candidate to announce his campaign, businessman Andrew Unanue, initially drew plaudits from Republicans looking for a candidate who could self-fund and could attract support from Hispanic voters statewide. Unanue, who recently served as chief operating officer of Goya Foods, appeared to be the likely frontrunner for the nomination.

But the first week of Unanue’s campaign has been nothing short of disastrous. First, he announced his campaign from the ski mecca of Vail, Colorado -- where he was already taking a family vacation -- and declined to return to New Jersey to meet with the county party committees that play an outsized role in Garden State politics.

Then the Newark Star-Ledger reported details about his unceremonious ouster from the management of Goya Foods. According to court testimony from a company vice-president, Unanue arrived to work drunk on several occasions. (At the trial and in a subsequent interview, Unanue said he occasionally came to work hung over and it didn’t affect his work.)

New Jersey’s state GOP chairman Tom Wilson angrily accused the Lautenberg campaign of leaking the story, and called Lautenberg's campaign a “tired, old gutter campaign replete with sleazy personal attacks.”

But that wasn’t all. Unanue allegedly used part of Goya Foods’ budget to pay for a political consultant for a potential Congressional campaign in 2004 – a violation of federal campaign finance law.

And now, adding insult to injury, PolitickerNJ.com is reporting that Unanue might not even live in the Garden State, with his primary residence listed as being in New York City.
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