(CNSNews.com) - James Treffinger, the Essex County executive and the current front-runner in New Jersey's Republican Senate primary, awoke Thursday to find that the FBI was in the process of raiding his office at the Essex County Hall of Records. Treffinger is trying to win the GOP nomination so he can do battle with incumbent Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli in November's election.
Federal agents searched two offices used by Treffinger, according to FBI Special Agent Sandra Carroll.
"The FBI, assisted by IRS agents, is conducting an investigation in the office of the Essex County executive and the Essex County administrator," said Carroll.
The FBI reports five file boxes and a personal computer were removed from the offices. Federal agents declined to identify whose computer was removed, or the scope of the investigation.
Treffinger is considered the favorite in a four person June primary to face Torricelli. Prior to Thursday, Treffinger had already won the support of 11 of the state's 21 county GOP organizations, and currently holds the highest elected office in Essex County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one.
A source at Treffinger's campaign headquarters said the candidate called Republican State Committee Chairman Joseph Kyrillos to say he would remain in the Senate race.
"It certainly does not bode well for the county leadership. The public has a right to know what's going on and to a speedy adjudication," said Thomas Giblin, a candidate to replace Treffinger as county executive.
Charles Smith, spokesman for the Treffinger campaign, said Thursday's events would have no impact on the Senate race.
"We certainly expect the candidates to make hay about the events today," said Smith. "We feel, however, this will have no impact on Jim's campaign. This campaign has no intention to alter its course."
While the campaign may stay its course, the Republican leadership in one county has already made plans to abandon Treffinger.
Monmouth County GOP chairman Bill Dowd said he has decided to take Treffinger off the Monmouth organization line. A few weeks back, Treffinger had won the top place on the Monmouth County GOP line.
Monmouth County is also the home of former Senate candidate and Independent Council Robert Ray, who dropped his bid for U.S. Senate after less than a month of campaigning.
Even before the decision by Monmouth County Republicans, the Treffinger camp was feeling the heat.
Treffinger had faced criticism in February for allegedly breaking fundraising rules during his 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. He lost the Republican primary to Bob Franks.
The Treffinger campaign blamed an "accounting error" and said a campaign audit had identified misused funds.
This new ethical cloud, regardless of the accuracy, now makes things difficult for Treffinger. His name identification statewide still remains low, his campaign war chest as of this week is just one-tenth the size of Torricelli's, and now he is likely to be defined as the Essex County politician whose offices were raided by the FBI.
The New Jersey GOP's strategy, to this point, has been to focus on the ethics allegations made against Torricelli.
Last month, a mass mailing released by the Treffinger campaign showed rival candidate Diane Allen, considered Treffinger's top rival, next to a picture of Osama bin Laden. It depicted Allen as soft on crime and opposed to the death penalty, even for individuals like bin Laden.