DENVILLE – Quoting Ronald Reagan is de rigueur for just about all Republicans and Hillery Brotschol quickly checks that box.
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” she says on a website proclaiming her intentions to run as a Republican in CD-11 against incumbent Democrat Mikie Sherrill. It was Reagan who made that line famous.
Brotschol, a screenwriter and film producer from Parsippany, admits it may seem unusual for a 29-year-old to consider a House seat an entry level political job. But the former Democrat says she thinks she has a few things going for her.
First and foremost is that she’s a millennial. For a party that some critics see as a home for old white men, this is important.
“I’m a candidate who has no baggage,” she added during a recent chat in a local coffee shop. “I don’t even have a speeding ticket.”
She adds that she wants to bring a “fresh perspective” to the party and that Republicans have a troubling tendency to present candidates who don’t excite voters.
Once a very Republican redoubt, voters in the 11th District spanning parts of Morris, Essex, Sussex and Passaic counties have twice elected Sherrill to Congress. Just last fall, she won by almost 30,000 votes, a rather comfortable margin.
Brotschol says Sherrill runs as a “moderate,” but charts a left wing course in Washington. She faults the congresswoman for voting in line with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and for most recently, not condemning Rep. Maxine Waters for incendiary comments regarding the George Floyd jury. Those comments were made prior to Tuesday’s guilty verdict.
This line of attack is not new.
Republican Rosemary Becchi said basically the same thing in running against Sherrill last November.
Brotschol says she thinks Becchi’s campaign was hindered by the pandemic, explaining such routine campaign activity as going door-to-door was limited.
“She (Becchi) gained a lot of traction in the district, but she still came up short,” Brotschol said.
Becchi, of course, may be putting that “traction” to use. She recently revitalized Jersey 1st, an advocacy group she organized a few years ago to put New Jersey businesses and families “1st.” The group’s Facebook page features weekly interviews with conservative luminaries, including one this week with Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina.
This isn’t the type of thing one usually does if they don’t want to run again.
No matter. Any Republican primary for the House in CD-11 is a year away.
Asked what her key issues are, Brotschol first mentioned term limits.
Speaking with passion, she said she has no use for career politicians. And for Brotschol, this is a bipartisan concern.
In speaking of office holders who have stuck around far too long, she mentioned Pelosi and Waters, but also Republican Mitch McConnell.
“They have been in Congress so long …. I don’t even know how in touch with their districts they are,” she says.
Besides term limits, Brotschol is in line with standard GOP thinking in advocating for “smaller government.”
She says she would have voted “no” on the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, saying it includes too much “pork” and that the best way to stimulate the economy is to reopen businesses.
Before we get to 2022, we have to get through 2021.
Jack Ciattarelli is the gubernatorial candidate of the state’s Republican establishment, but Brotschol says she thinks Phil Rizzo may be a better candidate to motivate the party’s base.
“I tend to root for underdogs,” she added. (If you doubt that, consider that Brotschol is a Jets’ fan).
Time moves on, but Donald Trump’s presence in the Republican Party probably isn’t going anywhere.
This is no small thing, given the fact Trump is a subject of ongoing debate among New Jersey Republicans.
Brotschol doesn’t duck the debate. She supports policies that will “make America great again,” but without the baggage of the Trump era.
“Our party needs to move on from Donald Trump,” she said.