Next year's congressional race could wind up looking like an early '90s throwback.

Bill Hughes Jr., son of former U.S. Rep. Bill Hughes, said he was considering challenging U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, the man who replaced his father in Congress.

"I am still in the process of having some conversations with family and friends," Hughes said. But he acknowledged the fundraising and organizing needs of a modern congressional campaign meant he would have to decide "sooner rather than later."

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He could face a crowded primary.

The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper that covers the Capitol, reported earlier this month that state Sen. Jeff Van Drew was also contemplating a 2014 run.

Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, could not be reached Friday. His aide, Allison Murphy, demurred, saying, "Constituents ask him all the time to run for Congress, and he's very flattered."

Van Drew is concentrating on legislative work and his re-election campaign, Murphy said. He faces Republican challenger Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt in November.

The only other candidate to formally declare is Mike Assad, a former Absecon school board member who lost a primary challenge to LoBiondo in 2011.

Hughes, 46, of Northfield, is a lawyer with Atlantic City's Cooper Levenson firm. He specializes in corporate investigations, complex commercial litigation and federal white-collar criminal defense.

He previously spent about 7½ years with the U.S. Department of Justice, first in its antitrust division and later as a prosecuting assistant U.S. attorney in Camden.

Hughes described himself as a "moderate with conservative leanings." He said he saw the need to encourage small- and medium-size businesses to grow. "I don't believe the Congress is doing that."

Local party chairmen said they would welcome Hughes. Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Jim Schroeder said he thought Hughes would be "a great candidate," while Cumberland County Chairman Bob Bailicki said Hughes and Van Drew would both do well.

Democrats have long eyed LoBiondo's seat, considered to be a swing district. The Cook Political Report identifies the district as leaning slightly Democratic, and it names LoBiondo as one of only 17 Republicans representing districts carried by President Barack Obama.

But the party has had difficulties recruiting credible challengers against the congressman, who has voted as one of the more moderate Republicans in Congress.

LoBiondo has consequently rolled to easy re-elections. He more than doubled his nearest opponent's total in 1998, 2000 and 2002. In his closest race, he beat David C. Kurkowski by a full 20 percentage points in 2008.

If Hughes ran, it would not be his first race.

He was 6 years old when his father won what was the first of 10 terms to Congress, but, he said, "that was a different day, that was a different time."

In 2001, Hughes ran for state Senate in the 1st Legislative District, a seat now held by Van Drew. He lost to Republican state Sen. Jim Cafiero by 441 votes - thwarting Democrats who had hoped to gain the majority in the upper house.

After the race, Democrats floated his name for county prosecutor, but he did not get the job.

Hughes said Democrats asked him if he wanted to run several years ago, but it was an inopportune time for him.

When The Hill discussed his possible campaign earlier this month, it wrote that unspecified national Republican strategists thought Hughes' current career as a defense attorney could provide ample fodder for attack.

Most notably, Hughes defended Michael Ritacco, the former superintendent of Toms River's schools, who was sentenced last year to more than 11 years in prison for corruption.

Hughes said he wanted to talk about ways to fix the high cost of health care as well as deal with the struggling gambling industry and the region's unemployment, which hovered between 8 percent and 13 percent in the most recent figures.

He said any attacks based on his clientele would show that his opponents preferred to talk about personalities rather than substantial policy questions.

"If they don't want to talk about the issues, they'll want to attack me personally," Hughes said.

Contact Derek Harper:


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