It will take a totally unexpected turn of events to derail Democratic Governor Phil Murphy’s reelection campaign train. On Wednesday, November 3, 2021, the major players in the New Jersey Republican Party will gather at various eateries throughout the state to ponder the impact of another serious statewide loss and question whether there is any significant GOP future in the Garden State. The immediate question: Will 2025 be another year of major NJGOP defeat?
So why not engage in some 2025 futurology, however speculative it may be?
There are four criteria that a New Jersey GOP candidate will have to meet in 2025 to have a chance of statewide victory. There is no New Jersey Republican who can meet these four criteria better than Senator Declan O’Scanlon.
Declan is not widely known outside of Monmouth County and New Jersey political insiders. Still, he has all the necessary assets for a superb statewide political candidacy.
He will turn 58 on June 9. Given my age of 71, I consider Declan to be positively youthful.
A lifelong resident of Monmouth County, Declan has represented a large portion of Monmouth in the State legislature for over a decade, specifically in the Assembly from 2008 to 2018 and the Senate from 2018 to the present. He currently serves as a State Senator representing the 13th District, consisting of 16 Monmouth County municipalities.
During virtually his entire tenure in both legislative houses, Declan has served as a member of budget and appropriations committees, most distinguished by his service as Assembly Republican Budget Officer from 2011 to 2017.
But that’s not all.
Declan has been a successful high-tech infrastructure businessman.
His wife, Heather Brittain O’Scanlon would be one of the most remarkable First Ladies in the history of New Jersey – a highly successful mother; wife; film actor; producer and writer. The O’Scanlons are a couple that qualifies as a political marketing dream – a unique combination of glamour and domesticity!
Now all this establishes Declan O’Scanlon as a most attractive 2025 gubernatorial campaign prospect. But that only scratches the surface as to his assets in a statewide New Jersey campaign. To fully evaluate his candidacy potential, one must determine how Declan meets each of the four key electoral criteria, as I now set forth:
There are few states where Donald Trump is more despised than New Jersey. Any NJGOP gubernatorial candidate with a record of past vehement support for Trump for President has a campaign that is Dead on Arrival.
Trump Toxicity is even more noxious today than before his 2020 reelection campaign. His overt racism and his vile, treasonous, unpatriotic incitement of the January 6 insurrection shall live in infamy, along with those unelectable Republicans who failed to-repudiate him.
Declan O’Scanlon was one of only two New Jersey Republican State Senators to vote for a resolution censuring Trump and calling for his impeachment and removal from office after the January 6 insurrection. For Declan O’Scanlon, his anti-Trump record is a badge of courage and a major political asset in what will be an era of Trump decline.
And unlike the pro-Trump New Jersey Assembly members and Senators, Declan has no participation whatsoever in Trump’s Big Lie claiming the election was stolen.
I learned early on in my legislative staff career that the best way of gaining extensive in-depth knowledge of state programs was to serve in some capacity with the budget and appropriations process. By virtue of his service as Republican Budget Officer from 2011 to 2017, Declan probably has the widest and deepest knowledge of New Jersey state programs of any challenger gubernatorial candidate since Tom Kean.
This could create a major problem for Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill if she is the 2025 Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Mikie’s expertise is in federal programs, not state, and in a debate with Declan on New Jersey issues, she could get seriously outclassed.
The Monmouth -Ocean Test
Over the years, with the movement of ethnic and racial populations throughout the state, political demographics and strategies have changed as well. As late as 1994, the Republicans held by a “Northwest Quadrant” strategy. If the Republican candidate won the Northwest Quadrant (Morris, Somerset, Warren, Hunterdon, and Sussex Counties) by over 100,000, he would win statewide.
Since then, Somerset has become Democratic, and even Morris is trending purple. The smaller “base GOP” counties of Cape May, Hunterdon, Warren, and Sussex have remained reliably Republican.
Nevertheless, the New Jersey Republican imperative for statewide victory has changed. The new path to statewide GOP triumph involves 1) huge margins in Monmouth and Ocean; 2) the capture of a highly populated county that was once Republican but now is consistently blue. An example of such a county would be Bergen.
Can Declan O’Scanlon win Monmouth and Ocean Counties in 2025 by the wide margins necessary to score a statewide triumph?
The answer in Monmouth is a definite yes. Declan has proven that in election after election in Monmouth since 2007.
But can Declan likewise carry Ocean County by similarly large margins?
Declan has not been a candidate in any recent Ocean County election. Still, there appears to be no barrier to his Ocean County success. The profile of a Republican Ocean County voter is center-right, in most cases not broadly right of that of a Monmouth County voter. Declan should be highly successful in Ocean County.
But how will Declan ever win in Bergen County? The answer lies in his selection of a “dream ticket” running mate from Bergen. And such a running mate does exist.
Dream Ticket Potential
The ‘dream ticket running mate from Bergen County for Declan O’Scanlon in 2025 would be State Senator Holly Schepisi. Holly turns 50 in December, 2021. I turn 72, God willing, in November, 2021, so I likewise consider Holly to be most youthful.
Holly has both charisma and excellent communication skills.
Most importantly, she has the ideal skill set for top level executive branch decision making. A governmental decision maker must take into account three considerations: 1) the law applicable to the issue; 2) the policy impacts the decision will have; and 3) the political fallout from the decision.
Holly Schepisi has demonstrated in her years in the Assembly a unique ability to propose solutions that exemplify a remarkable confluence of all three considerations. She has been one of the most competent lawyers in either legislative house over the past decade. She has demonstrated superb analytical skills in judging the impact of various policy alternatives. Finally, her political instincts are top-flight, largely, in my view, an inheritance from her father, John Schepisi, an outstanding Bergen County GOP chair in the early 1990s who knew how to win.
So if in the future, you hear discussion of a 2025 O’Scanlon-Schepisi NJGOP gubernatorial dream ticket, remember that you heard it here first!
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.