New Jersey 2022 Politician of the Year – Senator Michael Testa, Jr. – who is also the Jersey Republican to watch in 2023

No New Jersey columnist criticized New Jersey Republican State Senator Mike Testa, Jr.  more scathingly than I.

I was, of course, not well disposed to Testa, given my status as an outspoken passionate critic of Donald Trump and Testa’s role as New Jersey Chair of the 2020 Trump for President campaign.   Our most significant policy difference was with regard to Critical Race Theory (CRT), which I favor and Testa opposes.

In a nutshell, I labeled Testa as a non-bigot who was shamelessly playing the race card.  In no way do I withdraw this criticism, but I must emphasize that since I authored my negative columns on Testa, he has unequivocally proven that he is not a bigot.

He did so by publicly and outspokenly asserting his opposition to the veneration of the Confederate flag, which he correctly defined as an emblem symbolizing racism, slavery, and disloyalty. Given the widespread support that Testa enjoys in the racist world of MAGA, where the Confederate flag is venerated, this was an act of substantial political courage.

In evaluating a Mike Testa, Jr. or any other political figure, I have to note that a columnist has two roles: Advocate and analyst.  Sometimes, the two roles can justifiably merge.   Yet I believe that in making a pure assessment of a politician’s significance and effectiveness, rather than his or her virtues or correctness on issues, the columnist’s role of analyst is paramount and exclusive.

Accordingly, in designating somebody as a Politician of the Year, I set aside my personal feelings regarding that person’s political positions and virtues and focus strictly on his or her effectiveness.  In that vein, not only as a State Senator but also in his capacity as Cumberland County Republican Chair, Mike Testa indisputably deserves the designation of New Jersey 2022 Politician of the Year.  In two areas, his accomplishments were truly of a landmark character.

First, under his leadership and virtual management as Cumberland County Republican Chair, the Republicans won both seats up for election on the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners this past November.   This is the first time in 40 years that Republicans will have the majority for more than one year. The Democrats don’t get another shot at taking it back until 2024.

Second, in order to at long last control the runaway spending on pork barrel “Christmas tree” expenditures that has occurred in both Democratic and Republican administrations in Trenton, Senator Testa crafted and proposed in December three bills  designed to ensure transparency, efficiency, and merit-based competition for discretionary budgetary grants,  as follows:

  • S-3388 – Redirects a $300 million special line item for undisclosed capital projects at Rutgers (believed to include $100 million Rutgers sports facilities) awarded without an open or fair application process to a grant program run by the Commission on Higher Education that would be open to all public and private higher education institutions as well as vocational schools.  Funding allocations would be based on merit with a regional Statewide balance.
  • S-3386 – Would redirect approximately $356 million in special local government line items to named recipients awarded without an open or fair application process to a grant program run by the Commissioner of DCA that would be open to all local governments.  Funding allocations would be based on merit with a regional Statewide balance.
  • S-3287 – Would redirect approximately $22 million of eight line-items awarded to arts and cultural organizations without an open or fair application process to a grant program run by the Secretary of State that would be open to all arts and cultural organizations.  The grant program would be open to all public and private higher education institutions as well as vocational schools.  Funding allocation would be based on merit with a regional Statewide balance.

Now for the political ramifications of both these accomplishments:

The Cumberland election results have far-ranging political implications beyond the county.  The Republican Party in New Jersey is in a virtual moribund state, due to critical damage sustained due to the national Trump suzerainty.   A first step in the recovery of the New Jersey GOP is the establishment of a new Republican base in South Jersey.

The Cumberland results demonstrated that Mike Testa, Jr. Is well-equipped to lead this South Jersey effort.  He is a rarity who inspires confidence in both Trumpist and non-Trumpist GOP organizational and rank-and-file players.

He also demonstrated as Cumberland GOP chair an outstanding knowledge of political operations and mechanics.  An example was his understanding of Vote-By-Mail (VBM).  He disregarded the shibboleths followed by troglodytes in the GOP that only the Democrats could benefit from VBM.  Instead, Testa successfully directed the Cumberland GOP organization to utilize VBM, which they did most effectively.

The Testa three bill legislative passage described hereinabove will doubtless be part of the core GOP message in the 2023 New Jersey legislative campaign.  Testa will be a most sought-after speaker statewide.  He is a far more appealing figure than virtually all other New Jersey conservative political or media figures.  The MAGA types project Trumpist anger, grievance, and pessimism.  Testa projects Reaganesque opportunity, optimism, and hope.

There is another favorable by-product of Testa’s involvement with the above-mentioned legislative package.  In a blue state like New Jersey, Testa could be hindered in any upward political movement by his identification as a Trumpist cultural warrior (e.g., his opposition to CRT and COVID vaccine mandates).  The legislative package gives him an opportunity to wear a Reaganesque reformer, economic opportunity uniform instead of the MAGA garb.

Will Testa run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2025?  He is noncommittal on that.  My gut instinct tells me no, but he is only 46.  He has time to wait.  If he does not run in 2025, his endorsement will be the one most sought by the New Jersey GOP gubernatorial aspirants.

If Mike Testa does not run for governor in 2025, he certainly will be waiting in the wings.  Keep your eye on him.

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.

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8 responses to “New Jersey 2022 Politician of the Year – Senator Michael Testa, Jr. – who is also the Jersey Republican to watch in 2023”

  1. Senator Testa, Michael, invited me to meet with the respected President of Rowan, interested County Commissioners, and community advocates to identify training and work opportunities for court involved persons. He then worked with NJRC to expedite drivers licenses for court involved persons returning to Cumberland County. Michael has been an advocate for Second Chances; still “my favorite Testa” is Ellen. 😘


    True, Michael Testa, Jr. may try to polish up his resume. But he can not erase the fact that he was
    NJ Chair for 2020 Trump for President campaign after 4 devastating years by a morally and mentally incompetent President. This shows a complete lack of common sense, to state the least, on his part.

    Many employees of the Trump administration now find that they are unemployable.
    And I might add unelectable.

    Interesting column, Alan Steinberg.

  3. A family man, intelligent and approachable a politician who believes deeply in public service and making a difference for ALL!

  4. Alan Steinberg, you are absolutely correct on this one.

    Michael Testa Jr. is an excellent public servant and political leader. He displays integrity and compassion in his public and private life.

    Mike has a bright future in the political world and the NJGOP would be wise to continue to promote such an effective leader.

  5. Dear Alan Strindberg, I am a life time
    Democrat. However, I did read your article about
    Mike Testa. I don’t know enough about all the
    Politics that are surrounding the Republic party.
    However, since I now live in NJ, I will show more
    Interest in his political career. I do try to vote for
    The person and not the party. By the way, I was
    Very impressed by your vocabulary. I didn’t
    Necessarily understand all the words (and I was
    Too lazy to look them up). However, I was impressed
    One question, can you explain why McCarthy
    Gets voted down six times and gets another
    Chance for an additional vote. As my daughter
    Says: what’s up with that???

  6. I get up in Cumberland County and have ties to various branches of Testa family, although, I certainly do not subscribe to.Michael Testa’s political ideology, I believe he is a better representative of that SJ area than Jeff Van Dew, either in state legislature or Congress. He is brighter, more charismatic and firm in his viewpoint, unlike the pliable, opportunistic Van Drew.

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