SOMERVILLE – At the Somerset County GOP convention last night, Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-23) declared the Republican Party the party of working people, and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) said he agrees.
That argument gets easier, the GOP leader noted, when he assesses an unfolding gubernatorial contest dominated by Democratic front-runner Phil Murphy, a retired Goldman Sachs executive.
“I don’t think it’s helpful for Democrats to put up a Goldman Sachs millionaire and say ‘we’re here for the people; hey, I’m here to help the working class.’ I don’t think that’s the strongest message but I can live with it.
“This is Corzine II, The Movie,” Bramnick cracked.
At his turn at the microphone last night in the local Elks Lodge, the veteran legislative leader told the crowd that Republicans – outnumbered by well over 700,000 registered Democrats in this state – must stick together. That strategy becomes more difficult in a developing GOP Primary – maybe impossible.
Bramnick is trying to manage a situation now where several of his incumbent caucus members face challenges from within the Republican Party; among them Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-26), Assemblyman Rob Clifton (R-12), and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R-12); in addition to – by all indications – a bloody primary in LD40.
“Wherever I can get people to compromise, I will,” he told InsiderNJ. “The reality is we’re spending money within the family. Tom [Senate Minority Leader Kean] and I are trying to get people to unite, but there is animosity out there and deep. I will always support my incumbent legislators. Certainly there’s a difference of opinion and some who will say, ‘bring on primaries,’ but again, it’s costly and we’re not flush with money right now.
“There are two ways of looking at this and when you have that kind of division in the Republican Party, you have to remember that Democrats raise so much money. If we spend a lot of money in primaries, the Democrats will outspend us in the general.”
Bramnick made his statehouse brand in part on being agreeable and friendly. Almost 15 years ago, when he first arrived in Trenton, some of his first legislative efforts focused on civility. Now, he finds himself in a party led by President Donald J. Trump, who tweets out harangues against former President Barack Obama at three in the morning.
“I haven’t heard any Republican who like the president tweeting out that kind of stuff,” Bramnick said. “My preference would be for a tone of civility, both from the president and the Democrats.
“I agree with John DiMaio,” he added. “The Republican Party is now the party of the working man and woman and the Democrats haven’t realized that yet. They’re the party of special interests. Most Republicans in this state act with civility.”