READINGTON TOWNSHIP – John Flora says the problem began years ago – back in the 1960’s.
“We lost academia,” Flora told about 40 supporters Thursday at an Italian restaurant on Stanton Road.
By that, he meant many of the nation’s institutions succumbed to liberal influences and nothing has changed for generations. He ticked off universities, the public school system and the media as prone to anti-family, anti-religious and anti-capitalist biases.
Flora is the mayor of Fredon in Sussex County, but what brought him to the heart of Hunterdon County on a lovely spring evening was his candidacy for the CD-7 Republican congressional nomination.
Flora’s view that left wingers began infiltrating the nation’s core years ago and have not stopped is not novel. It is, in fact, a standard conservative talking point.
Still, he thinks he can earn enough “grassroots” support to become the conservative alternative to Thomas H. Kean Jr., the perceived frontrunner for the nomination and the right to take on TomMalinowski.
Of course, the field to the right of Kean is pretty crowded.
Most prominently, perhaps, it includes Assemblyman Erik Peterson and Phil Rizzo who ran last year for governor. There are also two other candidates, John Henry Isemann and Kevin Dorlon.
Kean is everybody’s main opponent.
Kean is by no means a left winger. But as an establishment figure – he’s the son of a former governor, after all – he finds himself being labeled not conservative enough or, perish the thought, a RINO.Flora is not subtle about making that point. A poster at his event pictured Kean with Liz Cheney with the snide caption – “Two RINOs – Perfect Together.” In the world of right wing GOP politics these days, Cheney is considered a traitor for her anti-Donald Trump stance.
Before becoming mayor, Flora served on the local board of education.
So, it wasn’t all that surprising that his speech and the question and answer period that followed was heavy on education topics.
Flora lamented the power of the teachers’ union, the escalating cost of education and the mandates that often accompany state and federal aid. One woman complained about books students read in her localdistrict.
Mandates and public school curriculum is a hot topic on the right these days, but local education is not a federal responsibility.
More generally, Flora’s point was that the nation has moved too far left and Kean is not the guy to stop it.
As one supporter in the crowd put it, Kean will go to Congress to get along; Flora will go to fight.
The practical problem is that there are multiple candidates in this primary field not sold on Kean. Standing out is the challenge.
Flora figures, or hopes, that Peterson and Rizzo may cancel themselves out, given the fact neither is a fresh face, thereby creating a “lane” for him.
A pertinent question is how wide will that lane be?