MOUNTAIN LAKES – Republicans in New Jersey are just too passive.
So says Brian Bergen, a GOP Assemblyman from LD-25, with big plans. In an animated, and at times, fiery speech Tuesday night, Bergen announced his candidacy for Assembly Republican leader. Barring an upset of major proportions this November, this would be minority leader. The job is opening up next year because of Jon Bramnick’s run for state Senate.
Addressing about 125 people at a fundraiser in a local catering hall, Bergen made two overall points.
One was that even as a minority party in Trenton, Republicans can do some good.
For one thing, by speaking out against extreme Democratic and liberal policies.
“I have to get up there (the floor of the Assembly) and beat them back to the middle,” he said. “That’s the job of the minority party.”
Launching verbal grenades can get you some publicity and applause at GOP gatherings, but that only goes so far.
Bergen says he knows that, and more importantly, he sees a way for Republicans to emerge from political irrelevancy.
He says Assembly Republicans need to be bolder – “to take a more aggressive approach and to do more.”
Bergen, a West Point graduate and former Army helicopter pilot, added, “We have to tell the majority party. ‘when you give us a crack, we’re going to get in there and take our share.'”
That’s only part of the goal. The real goal, of course, is taking control.
Bergen takes inspiration from the recently-published memoirs of John Boehner, the former House Speaker.
Boehner explained that when he joined the U.S. House decades ago, Democrats had what was believed to be a “permanent majority.” But Newt Gingrich, Boehner and other upstarts changed that by pushing a more aggressive, less compromising, agenda.
Republicans famously took control of the House for the first time in about 40 years in 1994.
Now, it’s 2021 and 1994 seems a long time ago, but that’s the attitude Bergen says Republicans need in Trenton.
Sounding more like a football coach than a politician, Bergen proclaimed:
“Winners win. If we choose to be winners, we will win. The map be damned, Demographics be damned. Voter registration be damned.”
The audience included a handful of fellow Republican assembly members, including Nancy Munoz, who has expressed interest in the leadership position herself. Others said to be interested include Ned Thomson and John DiMaio.
One GOP source said Tuesday night the choice will come down to who will do best for the caucus.
A realist may note that before any of this happens, Bergen needs to win reelection to his Assembly seat. The registration gap in mostly Morris County LD-25 is plus Republican, but by only about 3,000.