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SLEDGER: BECK NOW A GOP SHINING STAR

J_beck_on_tv_110607State Senator-elect Jennifer Beck is now in the spotlight statewide, pundits say.

‘Ridiculously outspent’ and yet victorious in Tuesday’s election, state Senator-elect Jennifer Beck of Red Bank is now — wait for it — a GOP pol to watch for higher office, today’s Star-Ledger reports.

One pundit is even forecasting two decades into the Beckian future.

“You’d have to say she’s one of the rising stars in the Republican Party, without a doubt,” said Joseph Marbach, chairman of the political science department at Seton Hall University.

“Jennifer Beck is going to be someone you’re going to hear a lot about in the next 20 years,” Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson said. “I don’t think you could rule out seeing her as a statewide candidate some day. I don’t think you could rule out seeing her as a congressional candidate some day.”

Beck, 40, who handily defeated Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth) in the 12th District, spent yesterday returning congratulatory phone calls. She said she was also recovering from a grueling campaign — and a victory celebration that went “pretty late.”

The senator-elect brushed aside speculation about her future.

“I am solely focused on working in the state Senate,” said Beck, who is finishing her first term in the Assembly. “We’ve got a lot facing us in the next four years. I look forward to being part of the solution.”

The speculation about Beck’s ambitions and future is nothing new, of course. Few who meet her can resist the thought that all her rigorous physical training — she’s a triathlete — is somehow also a kind of preparation for a marathon climb up the political ladder.

So naturally, at that ‘victory celebration’ alluded to above (it was at the Dublin House), redbankgreen asked Beck about her newfound higher profile and personal goals.

“I never thought I was going to make it to the state Senate,” she said, a celebratory pint in hand. “To me, this is it. This is where I want to be.”

The final tally, by the way, shows Beck took 54 percent of the 12th district votes, to Karcher’s 46 percent.

More from the Sledger:

Beck’s win was the more remarkable because she was ridiculously outspent; preliminary figures show per-vote spending of $85 by Karcher compared to $11.49 by Beck. As in her 2005 Assembly race, Beck surmounted relentlessly negative ads that attacked her ethics, her prior work as a lobbyist and even her driving record. She was the only Republican to defeat an incumbent Democratic senator and she carried her two Assembly running mates into office with her.

Beck served from 1999 until 2006 on the Borough Council of Red Bank, a Democratic town where she was the first Republican to be elected in a decade. “That very much prepared me for the difficult campaign of 2005 and the one I just went through,” Beck said. “I had some big calluses going into the Assembly race of 2005.”

She also knew her way around the Statehouse, as a lobbyist from 1999 until 2004 and as chief of staff to Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (R-Monmouth) from 1993 to 1997.

Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, said part of Beck’s formula for success is her “approachable and vivacious” personality that helped deflect the negative ads this fall.

“A lot of people felt they knew her and therefore the charges weren’t as plausible as if they were about someone they had never met,” Reed said.

Marbach said Beck’s future depends in part on what other, more senior Republicans decide to do.

“The biggest star is certainly still (U.S. Attorney) Chris Christie,” Marbach said. “Whether he capitalizes on that remains to be seen.”

Beck this year showed she is not one to back away from a fight, gambling a safe Assembly seat on a very risky challenge to Karcher.

“Jennifer’s very competitive,” Wilson said. “Here’s someone who went to college on a track scholarship. She was born to run.”

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