Wealthy biotech founder John Crowley, whose life was the basis for the 2010 movie "Extraordinary Measures," is seriously considering a challenge to Democratic New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez in 2012, according to a friend of Crowley.
Bill Spadea said Crowley, a Republican, is considering the race but that it was a big decision given his family responsibilities.
"If he decides to run, given his background and life story _ he has a real background of entrepreneurial success _ and that combination has a tremendous appeal across New Jersey," Spadea said.
After two of three his children were diagnosed with Pompe disease _ a rare affliction that is rapidly fatal in newborns and interferes that with the body's ability to tap sugar reserves for energy _ Crowley left a high-paying job at Bristol-Myers Squibb to start a small firm researching a cure for Pompe.
A treatment was developed that helped his children, and Crowley's story was portrayed in the movie that starred Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell and Harrison Ford.
Crowley has never run for office but his name was mentioned in several races in 2008. Speculation was renewed this spring when he stepped down as CEO of Amicus Therapeutics to an executive officer role, saying he wanted to focus on "public policy, civic service and philanthropic endeavors."
Calls to Crowley and Menendez were not returned Tuesday.
A recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed half of New Jersey voters either have not heard of Menendez or have no opinion of him. Menendez was appointed to fill the remainder of Jon Corzine's term in 2006 and won election to a full term later that year.
"Some of his vulnerabilities have been exposed," Spadea said of Menendez.
However, the polls shows Menendez easily beats Crowley in a hypothetical matchup by nearly two-to-one.
If Crowley decides to run, he would likely face stiff competition in the primary.
On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie's closest ally in the Legislature and a longtime personal friend, State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, announced he has formed a federal exploratory committee _ the first public step signaling a potential run.
Kyrillos is a 23-year veteran of the Senate and Assembly and a former state GOP party chairman with a ready-made network of campaigners.
Even with Christie's fundraising prowess behind him, Kyrillos would face an uphill battle against Menendez. The senator from Hudson County had $3.8 million cash on hand at the end of the most recent filing period, March 31, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
However, given Crowley's personal wealth, at minimum, he could make the race expensive for any challenger.