Let’s call this the “long game.”
It surfaced in the last few days that Republicans are going to need new leaders in the Assembly and Senate. As most observers of New Jersey politics know, GOP Senate Leader Tom Kean Jr. is not seeking re-election and Jon Bramnick, the Republican Assembly leader, plans to run for the Senate seat Kean is vacating. Win or lose, Bramnick will leave the Assembly.
So, who will replace both leaders?
We say “long game” because politics is full of gossip and speculation about what’s going to happen down the road. In this case, the down the road is, like, 11 months ahead. The party won’t actually need new legislative leaders until January, 2022.
But that doesn’t stop speculation.
Beginning with the Assembly, two likely candidates for Republican leader next year are John DiMaio of Warren County and Nancy Munoz of Union County. At the moment, they co-chair the Assembly Republicans’ conference. So this could be a simple – or perhaps not so simple as things move along – of one of the two moving up.
How about the Senate?
There is speculation in some quarters that two men who want the leadership post are Robert Singer of Ocean County and Joe Pennacchio of Morris.
“We got a lot of folks who can step up,” observes state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, also of Morris.
A question as interesting as who the next Senate leader is going to be is this: Who are going to be the Republican senators come 2022.
There are three clear unknowns at the moment – unknowns that certainly can increase or decrease the current number of 15 GOP senators.
In South Jersey’s 8th District, Republicans are very hopeful that they can beat Sen. Dawn Addiego, who is running as a Democrat after switching parties. This would be sweet indeed for the GOP.
Moving north to the 16th District, GOP Sen. Kip Bateman is also retiring. This looks like a tough one for Republicans to hold; Democrats have a registration lead and also hold the two Assembly seats.
LD-21, which is where Kean and Bramnick reside, has been competitive of late, but Republican legislative candidates are still surviving.
Obviously, what happens this year in all districts revolves around the gubernatorial election.
From the Republican side of the aisle, the question is simple: Will presumed candidate Jack Ciattarelli catch fire and in so doing, not only help himself, but help Republican legislative candidates as well?
When that gets sorted out, the skirmish for GOP leadership posts can start for real.