Jack Ciattarelli remains the winter book favorite for the 2025 New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nomination. He was a much-sought presence on the 2022 Republican campaign trail following his unexpectedly effective 2021 campaign against incumbent Governor Democrat Phil Murphy.
The major obstacle to Ciattarelli’s success against his 2025 Democratic opponent will be his inability to attract support in the minority communities and among young voters. This is not a consequence of personal flaws on Ciattarelli’s part or deficiencies in his record.
Rather, this is a direct result from the well-deserved dismal reputation of the Republican Party nationally and in New Jersey, due to the authoritarian, racist, and insurrectionist record of former President Donald Trump and his thuggish allies in the MAGA movement.
Donald Trump has been a continuing conundrum for Jack Ciattarelli. This midterm election cemented Trump’s status as a person who will continue to control large segments of Republican organization yet be unable to win a general election himself.
Ciattarelli had the moral courage not to endorse Trump in 2016 prior to his 2017 second place GOP gubernatorial primary run against Kim Guadagno. Prior to the 2021 GOP gubernatorial primary, however, Ciattarelli’s ambitions took priority, and he not only endorsed Trump’s 2020 reelection but also spoke at a few MAGA-style rallies.
There has never been an American president more despised by voters of color than Donald Trump, and Ciattarelli’s defeat in 2021 was due primarily to his unacceptability to voters of color because of his enthusiastic endorsement of Trump’s reelection.
Yet Ciattarelli doesn’t seem to get that. Recently, he was quoted as saying to an observer that his campaign staff in 2021 was “far too white,” implying that the hiring of more African-American campaign staffers would increase his share of the African-American vote by an amount sufficient to defeat his Democratic general election opponent.
Again, Jack doesn’t get it. It is noble and laudable of him to seek to recruit more African-American campaign staff. His inability to win support from the African-American community, however, isn’t due to the number of People of Color on his campaign staff.
His problem, plain and simple, with People of Color voters is Donald Trump. Unless and until he decisively repudiates him, Jack Ciattarelli is likely headed for another decisive general election gubernatorial campaign defeat.
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.