Mike Crispi was paying attention last Nov. 13 when Donald Trump called for someone to defeat Congressman Chris Smith in this year’s Republican primary.
Why not him?
Crispi at the time was a talk show host for the conservative – and appropriately-named – Right Side Broadcasting Network with only marginal experience in elected politics. He ran for Morris County freeholder in the 2017 primary, finishing fourth in a four-person race.
But he quickly took up the challenge, saying he’s the type of genuine conservative fighter that the GOP needs to meet the threat posed by “radical leftists.” That type of rhetoric is common at Republican gatherings, but Crispi’s larger point is more in line with Trump’s 2016 call to “drain the swamp.”
Speaking over breakfast today, Crispi railed against D.C. insiders who are “disconnected from both sides” and who work incestuously for their own benefit.
Crispi’s point here is simple – Chris Smith is a D.C. insider and then some.
Smith was elected to the House from CD-4 in central Jersey in 1980. He’s been there ever since. He’s now in year 42.
Crispi is 28-years-old, so the contrast is a bit striking.
What adds some intrigue to this primary is redistricting. The new map makes CD-4 more conservative than it is now. It includes more of Ocean County and less of Mercer, including Hamilton, where Smith lives. As we know, one need not live in a congressional district to run in it.
“The fourth district in New Jersey is perhaps the most conservative district in the whole northeast,” Crispi says, saying that the district is pro-Trump by 24 points.
To him, this is more than trivia.
Crispi, who now lives in Seaside Heights, reasons that a staunch conservative district should be represented by – you got it, a staunch conservative.
“We need bold, conservative fighters,” he said, adding that “Chris Smith is not that guy,” Smith by any objective analysis is no liberal, but he has at times backed Democratic-sponsored initiatives.
Crispi says he’s reading of Republicans in the district is that they remain loyal to Trump, and not to people like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell.
Specifically, Crispi takes issue with Smith’s stands on gun rights (the incumbent has been endorsed by gun control groups in the past) and says he’s been weak on immigration.
Most recently, Smith backed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Only 13 House Republicans did likewise, although one of them was fellow New Jersey Republican Jeff Van Drew.
Crispi argues that most of the bill does not go to infrastructure – roads, bridges and the like – but to what he called pet projects of the far left. In fact, he called it a “slush fund” for the green New Deal.
The Monmouth County GOP convention is Saturday and Crispi is enthused to have garnered enough support to be on the ballot. The Ocean County convention comes next month.
The conventions should be fun. Even if committee members are as staunchly-right wing as Crispi thinks the district is, party regulars often go with the “known guy,” or establishment figure.
As for Smith, his campaign web page boasts of endorsements from various conservative politicians and organizations, including Newt Gingrich and anti-abortion groups.
No matter what happens at the conventions, Crispi says he’s ready to run a hard-fought primary campaign. And it will be a campaign that will be aided by Roger Stone, a Trump confidant who the then-president pardoned after he (Stone) was convicted of lying to Congress during the investigation of Russian interference in the 2020 election.
How about Trump himself? Will he endorse Crispi?
That remains to be seen.