Where can the GOP Pick up Seats this Year, and other O’Scanlon Ruminations

Insider NJ's Jay Lassiter argues that while cannabis legalization in NJ is a long way away, expunging the records of people unfairly harmed by the war on drugs so that they can more meaningfully contribute to our shared society should be more important to lawmakers right now.

To Democrats with anti-Trump, anti-millionaire tax messages doing endzone dances ahead of November general elections, state Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) from Little Silver says not so fast.

Yes, legislative leadership rightly put Governor Phil Murphy in harness on a millionaire’s tax, O’Scanlon conceded in a conversation this afternoon with InsiderNJ.

“I will credit them moving in the right direction,” said the Monmouth senator.

Anytime someone stands in the way of a massive tax increase, that’s a good thing, he noted.

But Democrats serious about the state’s long-term fiscal health need to go a step further, O’Scanlon argued.

The majority party contains those allies of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) who opposed the millionaire’s tax ahead of this election season, and those public sector union adherents and progressives who backed the governor’s unsuccessful call for the tax.

A single significant question must penetrate that thorny thicket of cannibalizing Dems, O’Scanlon said.

“Will they come out and say ‘we wont back him [Murphy] again unless he favors these reforms?” said the senator.

If they can’t answer in the affirmative, they are absolutely fair game for an aggressive message that firmly ties them to the millionaire tax-seeking Democratic governor and a less pragmatic (in O’Scanlon’s view) plan than the one championed by legislative leadership.

Democrats this season trust in a nativist flailing President Donald Trump to give them traction.

But again, the Monmouth senator suspects the pervasive righteous rage that powered voters to the polls in last year’s federal elections will die down this year, where, again, the state’s fiscal health, or lack thereof, will stand at the center of constituent consideration.

“I think that exists,” he said of the ongoing Trump resistance, particularly in New Jersey, “but it’s less relevant this year because the issues we’re talking about in New Jersey are state issues. The furor around national politics has greatly died down, and is ameliorated by Democratic presidential candidates clambering all over one another with extreme positions like nationalizing healthcare.”

As for where Republicans might find a seam line to break into the Democrats’ legislative super majority this year, O’Scanlon  answered with two words.

“Down south,” the senator said.

Hailing his running mates on the ballot this year, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-13) and Freeholder Gary Scharfenberger as, respectively, a hard hitting and outspoken lawmaker and excellent local official, O’Scanlon said if Democrats feel emboldened to run in full-fledged fashion in the 13th District they would make a terrible tactical miscalculation.

“We’re unified,” said the veteran lawmaker.

 

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