No where does an already existing inter-county party rivalry starkly underscore the possibility of a real statewide contest as it does in LD40, where members of the Essex County Republican Executive Committee tonight heard from three of the candidates for governor.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno showed up to screen.
So did Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16).
And so did Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers.
There was some area context to the presentations.
Neighboring Passaic County Republican Chairman John Traier this past weekend already signaled his own preference for Guadagno, who was welcomed in Essex tonight with an off the record two-word Trumpian harrumph. “Low energy,”assessed an unimpressed county committee executive member, evidently seeing Guadagno as the Jeb Bush of New Jersey 2017.
It’s not surprising.
Scrapping with Traier, Barlas looks poised to go with Ciattarelli – or Essex’s own Rogers, if Rogers can convince enough members of the executive committee that he’s the man to beat Guadagno statewide. But that will be tough for Rogers, as Barlas has strong political relationships with other county chairs who appear to either be in Ciattarelli’s corner outright (Somerset) or leaning in that direction (Burlington).
The Essex GOP doesn’t want to be on an island alone.
Moreover, executive committee members genuinely liked Ciattarelli tonight.
It’s not LD40 GOP Primary line hi-jinks so much as Ciattarelli connection with his audience, insisted one source.
While Essex has a smaller plurality of Republicans than Passaic, Barlas’ potential to build on a political alliance with Passaic County’s Peter Murphy – who controls a significant number of committee seats and is a Traier opponent – means that Essex support for Ciattarelli also means the likely Murphy chunk of Passaic.
Barlas was coy when pressed for specifics about where his party organization will go.
“I thank the Lt. Governor, Assemblyman Ciattarelli and Commissioner Rogers for coming to speak to the Executive Committee and sharing their vision for the future of New Jersey and the Republican Party,” said the chairman. “These are exceptional public servants who are committed to ensuring we have a bright and affordable future here in New Jersey.
“This is not going to be an easy decision to make, but we look forward to making it in the next few weeks,” he added.