CD11 Flashpoint: The GOP and Webber Seek to Saddle Sherrill with Menendez-Murphy

Mikie Sherrill and Phil Murphy, one in the same.

Mikie Sherrill and Bob Menendez, one in the same.

It’s early in the game – more than four months away from the midterm election – but that’s the picture Republicans are trying to draw.

Three press statements arrived Wednesday from various GOP sources, all of which linked Sherrill, the Democratic candidate for Congress in District 11, to Murphy  or Menendez.

State Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt called Sherrill an “agent of the Murphy and Menendez teams.” 

A short while later, state Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. called her a “rubber stamp” for the Democrats.

Not to be outdone, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick made reference to the “Sherrill-Murphy tax hikes.”

One should never take political rhetoric of this kind all that seriously.

But let’s try to sift through the residue.

It is true that the 2018-19 state budget being debated now is bound to raise taxes.

Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed increasing the top income tax rate for those earning a million dollars or more a year and raising the sales tax back to 7 percent.

Democrats in the Legislature have rejected that plan, but they want to increase the corporate tax in addition to other taxes.

So, it seems logical to assume the new budget will mean some taxes are being raised.

There is nothing unique about Republicans blasting Democrats for increasing taxes. One reason is that Democrats do raise taxes more than Republicans do.

And state Republicans with long memories probably recall ever so fondly how the GOP took control of the state Legislature after Gov. James Florio increased taxes by about $2.8 billion after winning election in 1989.

But let’s pause here for a moment.

There are very few similarities between then and now.

Florio raised the sales tax by a penny and income tax rates increased for virtually everyone. 

None of that will happen this time around.

The sales tax increase would be less than half a cent (would anyone notice?) and other tax proposals would impact millionaires and corporations (would average people care?) 

It is understood there may be an adverse impact to raising just about any tax, but it’s hard to see crowds rallying in the streets, as they did in the Florio days, because a guy making $2 million a year will pay a top rate of 10.75 percent instead of 8.97 percent.

And let’s not forget Sherrill is running for the U.S. Congress, not the New Jersey Senate.

Republicans likely will get a little bit more mileage over the legitimate ethical issues surrounding Menendez.  But they would do well not to insult the intelligence of voters.

Jay Webber, the CD-11 Republican candidate, said on primary election night that Sherrill and Menendez were ticket-mates. Today, GOP chair Steinhardt said Menendez and Sherrill shared a “poison ticket.”

It probably doesn’t take a political junkie to grasp that Menendez and Sherrill do not necessarily share the same ticket, They are running under the same Democratic banner, but they are running separately for two distinct offices. A president and vice president share the same ticket.

Still, Sherrill would do well to publicly support the Senate Ethics Committee’s admonishment of Menendez.

All this reaching to tie Sherrill to Murphy, Menendez, and undoubtedly more Dem leaders to come, seems an obvious acknowledgment by Republicans that Sherrill’s resume – Naval academy graduate, military helicopter pilot and a federal prosecutor – is hard to attack. At least as of now. You have got to figure the Republicans’ opposition research department is working overtime.

The Sherrill camp, by the way, issued a statement of its own Wednesday criticizing Webber for saying he supports the recent federal tax cut bill that adversely impacts many New Jersey residents by capping the federal deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000.

Webber, for his part, has said he doesn’t support the $10,000 cap.

Also, the liberal group, BlueWaveNJ, released a statement condemning the Trump administration’s border separation policy. It said it planned vigils of opposition this week outside the offices of the state’s five Republican members of Congress.

Photographs of crying kids in cages probably is not the type of optics New Jersey Republicans want to see, proving that campaigning through associations can come back to bite you. 

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