NEW MILFORD – The ad begins with people waving Confederate battle flags and continues with clips of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In the middle of it all is Jack Ciattarelli talking about liking Donald Trump’s “policies” and speaking at a reported “Stop the Steal” rally in Trump’s New Jersey hometown of Bedminster.
Soon after a very upbeat and positive ad, Phil Murphy is quickly going negative, linking Ciattarelli to a host of unsavory types – Confederate sympathizers, white supremacists and Capitol rioters. And, of course, Trump himself.
Perhaps he believes a recent Club for Growth poll – touted by Ciattarelli – that has the race neck and neck.
Ciattarelli, campaigning today at a pizza place in this middle class Bergen County town, said he hadn’t seen the ad.
Told what it was about, he said, “I’m not one bit surprised. This guy wants to continue to talk about anything and everything other than his failures.”
One of the Republican’s constant themes is that Murphy is “anti-police.” He makes that point by saying the Murphy Administration has so “handcuffed” police they can’t do their jobs properly. And he points to curfews this summer in some shore towns because of unruly crowds.
While he talks about always “backing the blue,” some police organizations and unions have endorsed Murphy and the state’s Fraternal Order of Police endorsed no one.
Asked about that, Ciattarelli contended that the FOP’s non-endorsement says more about Murphy than it does him.
Bergen County has been quite Democratic of late, but local Republicans say New Milford and other towns along the “Route 4 corridor,” including River Edge and Paramus, are places where Ciattarelli can – and must do – well. Borough voters backed Murphy by about 300 votes four years ago.
Addressing a group of supporters over pizza, Ciattarelli reiterated his goal to cut property taxes through a new school aid formula.
Demonstrating the need, he said he gets tired and disappointed when seniors tell him they just can’t afford to live in New Jersey.
“They’re being pushed out of their homes,” he said.
Another Ciattarelli campaign theme of late has been Ida. He continues to fault Murphy for declaring a “state of emergency” 13 hours after one was declared in neighboring Pennsylvania.
He said it’s reasonable to ask why it took the governor so long to act.
One flaw in this line of attack is that an official state of emergency has more to do with storm assistance after the fact than anything to do with a storm itself.
Texas also made its way into today’s event.
Last week, Ciattarelli said he was not all that familiar with a new Texas law that essentially bans abortion and also sanctions citizens to enforce the measure themselves.
Today, the Republican said he doesn’t support that law, nor does he want Roe v. Wade to be overturned. But he did say he supports parental notification and opposes pending legislation that he says would allow late-term abortions. Murphy supports what is officially called the Reproductive Freedom Act.
The substantive discussion over, Ciattarelli enjoyed a slice of pizza.
That’s not as ho-hum as it sounds. Ciattarelli likes to say that Murphy doesn’t know how a Jerseyan is supposed to eat pizza.
Ciattarelli apparently does.