Gov. Murphy gets his first potential challenger for the 2021 race
The 2021 race for New Jersey governor is already shaping up with one declared Republican candidate in the ring and two other Republicans looking to get in.
Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli announced another run for governor on Tuesday afternoon at an event in Raritan Borough with the theme of "Let's Fix New Jersey." The Somerset County politician lost the GOP primary to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in 2017 by 15 percentage points.
"Phil Murphy doesn't get it," Ciattarelli said with his wife and children behind him on a stage at the John F. Kennedy School. "Maybe it's because he's not from New Jersey. maybe it's because he doesn't understand. But the bottom line is this: He's not New Jersey."
Ciattarelli hammered the first-term governor for New Jersey's mounting property taxes. A New Jersey 101.5 analysis found that the average bill last year reached nearly $9,000 a year.
"If taxes are your issue, Phil Murphy shouldn't be your governor," he said, calling for a constitutional convention that would address how the state funds public schools and addresses affordable housing.
Democrats immediately reacted to Ciatterelli's announcement by tying him to former Gov. Chris Christie, who left office with one of the lowest gubernatorial approval ratings in history.
"Jack Ciattarelli is a Republican political insider who fully supported Chris Christie's disastrous agenda while he was in Trenton,” state Democratic Committee Vice Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, who also hails from Somerset County, said in a written statement. “Gov. Murphy and fellow Democrats are working hard to correct the many mistakes of the Christie era, and Jack Ciatarrelli can't be trusted to fix them.”
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Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, told New Jersey 101.5 last week that he accelerated his timetable on deciding whether to run for governor after hearing Gov. Phil Murphy's State of the State address.
“Murphy’s not addressing the issues that New Jersey, in my judgement, wants him to address so I’m making those calls and looking at it seriously,” Bramnick said.
Bramnick said he has spoken to some party chairs around the state and some legislators. I will continue to make more calls,” Bramnick told New Jersey 101.5. Bramnick called Cittarelli a “good friend” and said he would not be making his own announcement anytime soon.
GOP state chairman Doug Steinhardt may also be considering a run with the formation of a new political committee called Lead Right New Jersey. It takes its name from one of Steinhardt's favorite sayings he often uses as a tag on his Twitter account. It's also used in tweets by the Warren County GOP, which Steinhardt leads.
The PAC's stated purpose is to "advocate for conservative policies, conservative ideals and better fiscal decisions." It is headed by state Sen. Mike Testa, R-Cape May, former Assemblywoman Donna Simon, building trades leader Pat Delle Cava and political consultant Bill Stepien. Warren County GOP treasurer Lori Ciesla serves as a political advisor.
The PAC is a Section 527 group, which means it can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations.
Michael Symons contributed to this report
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