During a campaign stop last week in Mount Olive, Jack Ciattarelli was asked if he takes his challengers from the right seriously. After all, it is Ciattarelli who has the backing of the Republican establishment throughout the state for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.
“Absolutely,” he said.
Guess he wasn’t kidding.
A few days later, a Ciattarelli mailer offered GOP voters a double feature of sorts.
One side of the mailer sharply attacked Hirsh Singh; the other side went after Phil Rizzo,
Both Singh and Rizzo are coming at Ciattarelli from the right. In truth, neither appears to be a serious threat. There certainly is a very conservative element among Republican primary voters, but as recent elections have shown, they’re not a majority. And in this case, that vote will be split between two candidates.
Now, there was a poll circulated a few weeks ago published by the right-wing Daily Caller that showed Singh and Ciattarelli within the margin of error. Rizzo was in single digits. That poll, which also had a huge bloc of undecided voters, probably needs to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.
Ciattarelli, however, apparently wants to leave nothing to chance.
His attacks are pretty strong.
Singh, who ran unsuccessfully in last year’s U.S. Senate primary, is called a perennial loser and a “fraud.” He’s also portrayed as a guy with absolutely nothing going for him.
Or, as the malier puts it, “Singh wants to be governor, but still lives at home with his parents!”
How about Rizzo?
It asks readers to remember his “shady tax deal.”
More specifically, it brings up the fact that Rizzo, a pastor, sold his house in New Vernon to his church, but continues to live in it without paying property taxes. Curiously, the Singh camp was circulating the same story earlier in the campaign.
The mailer also accuses Rizzo of making critical comments about Catholics, which would be a rather dumb thing to do in New Jersey.
A spokesperson for the Singh campaign said this was expected.
Singh’s Facebook page is a bit more explicit, calling Ciattarelli a “proud never-Trumper” and a “pawn of the corrupt political establishment.”
King Penna added:
“Their internal polling shows a clear trend – the Hirsh Singh campaign has all the momentum and Jack is slipping.”
A spokesperson for the Rizzo campaign was not immediately available this morning to comment on the mailer.
So what does all this mean?
Most candidates like to say they take nothing for granted and that’s what may be driving Ciattarelli.
The other possibility is that he’s truly concerned about the primary, given the fact that in the era of Donald Trump’s Republican party, past voter trends may be less important than they used to be.