MOUNTAIN LAKES – Jon Bramnick is a legislative leader, but being in the minority that doesn’t go very far.
So he has some questions.
“Where’s the legislature been for the last year?” the Assembly Minority Leader asked Wednesday night at a fundraiser for Justin Musella, a Republican council candidate in Parsippany.
He was talking about Covid.
He said lawmakers have not held one hearing on the governor’s response to the pandemic, which he called “an insult to democracy.”
This has been a regular complaint of Republicans, who lack the power to call hearings themselves. Their concerns center around nursing home deaths and the governor’s frequent use of executive orders.
Bramnick is leaving his Assembly post in hopes of moving up to the state Senate from LD-21, which covers parts of Morris, Somerset and Union counties. That seat is open because its current occupant, Tom H. Kean Jr., is leaving to run again for Congress next year in CD-7.
Bramnick’s departure from the Assembly opens his leadership post and four lawmakers already have said they want the job, including Brian Bergen of Morris County who was in attendance. Bramnick by the way hasn’t endorsed anyone.
The assumption is that Bramnick will win election to the Senate, but he said, as politicians are wont to say, that he’s taking nothing for granted. He said his short trip to Mountain Lakes was his first event outside his district this campaign season.
He did it to boost Musella, who Morris Republicans see as a rising star. Musella is seeking a Parsippany council seat on a ticket that includes mayoral candidate Jamie Barberio and fellow council candidate Frank Neglia.
A few hours before the fundraiser, Musella received the political equivalent of a punch to the back of the head – a charge in a letter to a local website that “he stands with white supremacy.”
The allegation stemmed from Musella’s speaking role last fall at a Donald Trump rally in Parsippany. I covered that rally and in fairness, nothing Musella said had anything to do with white supremacy.
Referring to the incident at the fundraiser, Musella said only that some of his opponents are trying to “destroy my reputation.”
A few months ago, Democrats criticized Musella’s perceived ambition, suggesting that while he was running for council, he really wanted to serve in Congress. That was certainly an odd bit of criticism.
Bramnick went a step further introducing Musella as a future governor. Rising star indeed.
As for today’s reality, Bramnick said before the event that he thinks Jack Ciattarelli is making the gubernatorial race competitive. The last public poll has Phil Murphy ahead by 9 points.
“It’s always a referendum on the incumbent,” Bramnick said.
“I personally like Phil Murphy,” he added. “But he’s an extremist.”