RANDOLPH – If there’s been one race virtually disappearing from view, it’s been the GOP primary to select a candidate to challenge Cory Booker this fall. This one would have struggled for attention even
without the pandemic.
So it was a bit refreshing to see three of the Republican Senate hopefuls speaking back-to-back-to-back today at a reopen small business rally here.
Rik Mehta, who has garnered the most county party endorsements, spoke first, contending that Phil Murphy’s policies are built on faulty science and that economic vitality is a big part of good public health.
Many New Jersey small businesses, he said, are bright enough to “self-regulate,” in terms of social distancing and requiring masks.
Just as an aside, however, there was little social distancing among the 175 to 200 people at today’s event at the Randolph Tennis Center.
Perhaps because he was the first to speak, Mehta spoke to the subject at hand – small businesses – more than anything else.
Those who followed were more rhetorical – almost to the point that the event came to resemble a GOP campaign rally.
Hirsh Singh, who claimed to be the only true conservatiive Republican in the race, asked the crowd if they were “sick” of Phil Murphy. The response was predictable. He then pledged to do his best to get both Booker and Murphy out of New Jersey.
Next up was Tricia Flanagan who, naturally, said she was the most genuine conservative in the race. And she lamented the fact that it’s going on 50 years since Republicans have elected a U.S. senator from New Jersey.
And she had an explanation.
“We tee-up lukewarm candidates,” she said. You’d think that Bob Hugin and a few years before him, Tom Kean Jr. might disagree.
As for the official reason for the event, a number of small business owners described a very real plight. With their doors closed for more than two months, finances are running low.
What continues to be a legitimate and perhaps growing problem with Murphy’s pandemic policies is that small shops are closed while many large, if not mega-stores, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot remain open.
This is the type of thing that may be tolerable for two weeks, but as an event sign reminded everyone, for many small businesses it’s been 75 days. So the frustration is genuine.
Speakers also included a firing range owner, the head of the Tea Party in nearby Sussex County and an assortment of local elected officials and candidates.
Some said the governor doesn’t have a plan. That’s a bit of a stretch. Murphy does have a reopening plan, although all may not agree with it.
And in fairness, that reopening is slowly taking place. Youth sport leagues, day camps, child care centers and indoor church services were all cleared to reopen – at varying times in the weeks ahead – on Friday.
And the governor said more reopening steps will be announced this coming week.
How does the public feel about all this?
Well, recent polls gave Murphy approval ratings of more than 70 percent. But since they were about a month ago, it will be interesting to see what fresh polling reveals.
Besides the Senate candidates, also on hand were Frank Pallotta and John McCann, who are both seeking the GOP nod in CD-5. Randolph is not in that district.
Which raises an oddity of sorts.
Morris County representation at the rally was rather slim. Surrogate Heather Darling spoke and Assemblyman Brian Bergen was in the audience. Sen. Anthony M. Bucco and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn provided audio comments.
But none of the freeholders, other state lawmakers or Morris-district congressional candidates appeared. Given the fact many politicians are quick to go to the opening of an envelope, that was a bit puzzling.