BRANCHBURG – Mike Pappas, a congressman back in the 1990s, says he’s been asked why he’s now running for the state Senate. The implication is clear – isn’t this a step backwards?
Pappas has a good answer.
He says that he and many people in New Jersey are “incredibly concerned” and frustrated at how the state is handling the pandemic. Speaking Saturday morning at a Somerset County Republican campaign kickoff at the Fox Hollow Golf Club, Pappas referred to the many businesses and schools that were ordered shut through the governor’s executive orders more than a year ago.
He acknowledges that there were a lot of unknowns when the COVID pandemic struck in March, 2020, but suggests that 13 months later, some sort of normalcy should be returning.
Many schools in New Jersey have resumed in-person instruction, but many small businesses have closed permanently, and Pappas says that is precisely the problem.
A sign on the door of the golf club says masks are required for entry.
Pappas who has long championed conservative, if not libertarian, principles has a different view. He says that people who feel uncomfortable in large, indoor gatherings are free to leave. He says that’s preferable to state regulations that limit freedom.
Pappas, who is now the municipal administrator in Bridgewater, is running in LD-16, which spans parts of four counties – Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex and Mercer. The senate seat is opening up with the retirement of Republican Kip Bateman. Democrats hold the two Assembly seats in the district, which like Somerset County itself, has been trending Democratic of late. Pappas takes solace from the fact Bateman won in the district in 2017, and he reasons – or perhaps hopes – that this year’s election will draw voters who do not normally take part in state races. He thinks that can help him. Assuming he survives the primary – Pappas is endorsed by party leaders in all four counties – his Democratic opponent will be Andrew Zwicker, who is trying to move up from the Assembly.
The sagging fortunes of Somerset Republicans is one thing today’s gathering was meant to turn around. With many local, county and other state candidates on hand, people spoke of an “opportunity to win again.” Democrats now fully control the board of commissioners.
Tim Howes, the county Republican chair, said this year’s election presents a chance to throw off what “big government” has done during the pandemic.
Also addressing the crowd of about 175 were commission candidates Amber Murad and Michael Kirsh, who pledged to campaign throughout the 21-town county.
Getting back to Pappas, his stint in Congress back in the 1990s may seem like ancient history to some. A strong backer of impeaching Bill Clinton, Pappas earned notoriety by literally singing his praise of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr on the House floor by paraphrasing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. The expected negative campaign ads followed.
Pappas said he doesn’t plan to do any singing this time around.
Does he expect Democrats to bring the incident up?
He said that if they do, it will show they have nothing else to talk about.
Pappas called the singing episode “old news.”