Tom Kean Jr.’s dogfight with John Isemann didn’t surprise their rival Erik Peterson, who took credit for it.
“I’m so good, I converted two moderates to conservatives,” Peterson told InsiderNJ. “If I can do that – I’ll win [the CD-7 GOP Primary].”
Prior to the Morris Convention, which produced an embarrassing (and as yet unresolved) tie between former state Senate Minority Leader Kean, Jr. and the unknown Isemann, the two candidates paid lip service to conservatism, then made sure they hit up the word as their lifeline messaging during the convention, Peterson said.
They stole his message, the movement conservative Assemblyman from Hunterdon County added. “But you can’t just be conservative when you’re running for office. People know I am a conservative. They know the real deal is me. They all talk conservative but I’m the only one who actually has done it.”
Still, the mangled Morris County Republican Convention revealed Peterson’s own unproductive punchathon with a fourth rival for the nomination, Phil Rizzo, who looks to be jamming the lane and at least keeping the ever recognizable Kean name at least partially in the spotlight.
“Rizzo lives there [in Morris County],” Peterson explained. “They knew him there, and they knew Isemann, who lives there, and who’s been campaigning there for close to a year. They knew Tom Kean, who’s been campaigning there for close to three years. Look, when I went out and started knocking on doors, I found that initially most people were for Tom Kean. But when they have a choice, they will peel away from Tom Kean. Over 40% voted for Phil Rizzo or I [at the Morris Convention]. We split that conservative vote. Had Phil Rizzo not gotten into that convention, I probably would have come in first. That says something about Tom Kean’s weakness in the race. A lot of the establishment is behind him he still struggles at 35%.”
But Rizzo did get in the race, and even as Kean claws and paws with Isemann, Peterson can’t get around his fellow self-proclaimed across-the-board conservative Republican.
Can he and Rizzo sit down and figure out a strategy to avoid cannibalizing each other?
Peterson said he’s not concerned about it.
“The county committee votes different than the primary voter,” said the congressional candidate.
He has a plan for the fall as the contest moves behind the conventions and into the teeth of real voters ahead of June, he said.
Peterson said he believes he can connect with those voters and prevail.
In other news, specifically the ongoing war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the sovereign nation, Peterson said the United States should have banned the red bear’s energy imports a long time ago.
“Now he’s in this,” he said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion. “He’s done these things, and people are analyzing Putin as if he has some kind of mental problem. They can say the same thing about our president. The point is, you’re pushing his buttons to never come back [to the negotiating table]. You need to cut off his export of oil so we’re not financing this war.”
The problem, though, is the United States has not adequately developed its energy supply, which now puts the country in a perilous position, teetering at the brink of spiked gas prices “which will crush our economy and send us into a depression.”
“I don’t understand why the Democrats are so married to this idea of destroying the U.S. energy sector,” said Peterson. “They would rather destroy our economy and allow Ukrainians to be slaughtered by Russia, and beg the for middle east for oil, rather than have our own energy right here. There’s chaos in the world, and it’s about time we get off this ideology matrix and allow our energy to flow again so we don’t have to import foreign energy and foreign gas.”
What about drilling off the coast of New Jersey?
“I don’t think we need to do that.” said the assemblyman. “There’s plenty of oil in other places. It’s not necessary. There’s plenty of oil all over the place. We don’t need to go there to do that.”
On the war, Peterson said he continues to back NATO’s resistance to imposing a no-fly in Ukraine.
“They’re [the Ukrainians] asking us to help with military support, and we should do that, but let them fight the fight,” he said. “They’re a tough people. They want to fight it, and they’re not asking us to fight it for them. The American people don’t want to get involved in another war at this point. I don’t see the necessity of boots on the ground. If we institute a no-fly zone, and then try to enforce it, [we will put ourselves in the position of going head-to-head with Russia].
“We don’t need to do that,” he insisted. “I don’t think there’s enough strategic interest for the United States. Now, if it spills over into Poland, that’s another story.”