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Senate President Sweeney Declines To Run For NJ Governor

By KYW's David Madden

WEST DEPTFORD, N.J. (CBS) -- New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney will not run for Governor next year.

The Gloucester County Democrat announced his decision in a press release. In it, he conceded that millionaire former Ambassador Phil Murphy is morphing into a front runner. Monmouth University political analyst Patrick Murray saw this coming after Sweeney's main opponent to the party nomination, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, pulled out and backed Murphy.

"The writing has been on the wall for the past week that this was going to be an uphill battle for him," Murray told KYW Newsradio, "because Murphy was getting that North Jersey support and there are just simply more voters up in North Jersey."

Sweeney, who made no secret of his gubernatorial ambitions over the last couple of years, will seek re-election to his senate seat. Murray suggests Sweeney's early withdrawal might be part of a deal for him to retain his position as Senate President, should Democrats remain in control of that chamber after the 2017 elections.

In his announcement, Sweeney noted the support of several labor unions that this week pushed him to formally enter the race, but conceded that "in the last few days it has become clear that Phil Murphy has been able to secure substantial support from Democratic and community leaders that would make my bid all but impossible."

Murray also sees the decision as an intra-state power play within the Democratic party that hurts the ambitions of South Jersey power broker George Norcross.

"There are a number of people up in North Jersey who are worried about George Norcross extending his power further into the state," Murray said.

The decision leaves two other Democrats considering a gubernatorial run, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senator Raymond Lesniak, both considered long shots at this point. Several Republicans are also considering entering the race, topped by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Incumbent Republican Chris Christie is barred from seeking a third term.

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