Does the name Jack Ciattarelli ring a bell? He’s a former state assemblyman who tried for the Republican nomination to go against Murphy four years ago but Kim Guadagno got the nod only to lose to Murphy by 14 points.

He’s back. And he smells blood.

Despite what polls say about people’s support of Phil Murphy’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis he thinks he sees an opening on that very same issue. More than a quarter of the 24,000+ deaths in the state were from nursing homes. Murphy allowed positive cases to return to nursing homes and told the facilities to isolate them.

It was a horrible call. By nature, nursing homes are not like hospitals that can much more easily keep areas isolated and sterile. The death toll mounted until well over 7,000 residents in these places were deceased.

Ciattarelli feels the most vulnerable were also the most let down by Murphy’s decisions. And he’s not holding back in one of his first campaign ads in seeking his job.

He also mentions four other aspects of the Murphy administration’s handling of the public health crisis. Schools being closed, businesses being shuttered, the debacle that was unemployment payments, and prioritizing prisoners for vaccines. Schools and businesses needed to be shut down for good reason (for awhile anyway), so I disagree with Ciattarelli there. But on unemployment and the prison population, he’s spot on.

In some ways this looks like just another slick political ad. Yet it goes after chinks in the armor of Murphy’s pandemic record and it not only does it effectively, it does it with a positive and confident tone. It might just work.

Another ad being put out at the same time highlights Ciattarelli’s New Jersey roots. He was born and raised in Raritan Borough, which is between Duke Farms and the Somerville Circle in Somerset County. It doesn’t get much more Jersey than that. And without saying it, it reminds folks that Murphy isn’t from here. He’s from Massachusetts. Reminds us he found New Jersey a convenient place to live while taking in millions at his Goldman Sachs gig. While Ciattarelli is much more like us. Hell, he IS us.

Again, the ad is stylized. Plays on the trope of the "family-man politician" with the mention of raising four kids. It seems like so many other campaign ads. In a blue state it won’t be an easy fight. But I think it will be a closer fight than some think.

I’m seeing something in these ads. I’m seeing a guy who’s clearly cut from our Jersey cloth. I’m seeing a guy who could be from our own neighborhood. Most important for Ciattarelli, I’m seeing a guy who’s clearly not Murphy.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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