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RARITAN – Phil Murphy comes from Massachusetts. That may be just political trivia, but to many Republicans, it’s much more than that. “The bottom line is this – he’s not New Jersey.” So said Republican Jack Ciattarelli in announcing plans to run against Murphy in 2021.
This was purely a political kickoff and such rhetoric is common. Yet, the sentiment that the governor is not really a “Jersey guy” is not unique among Republicans.
Some may recall that Chris Christie made basically the same point when leveling his first extended public criticism of Murphy during a speech last spring to a group of sportsmen in Sussex County.
Ciattarelli’s obvious contention was that Murphy doesn’t really understand what Jersey is all about. Some of this, of course, has more to do with style than substance.
The newly-announced candidate left no doubt about his background. He made his campaign announcement in the elementary school he attended, pointing out that his kindergarten class was about 100 yards from where he was standing in the school gym.
And he spoke of his hometown of Raritan as one of those many quintessential New Jersey locales, noting that it has a great pizza place and that for years, a former mayor also ran a local saloon.
But Ciattarelli didn’t forget about the politics.
He ridiculed the governor’s much-quoted comment a few months ago that if taxes are your only issue, New Jersey may not be the place for you.
Ciattarelli rephrased that to say if taxes are your issue, “Phil is not your governor.”
When it’s more than 600 days until the election, you don’t expect to hear many details on issues. On that score, Ciattarelli stuck to the basics, claiming that he has a “fix” for such perennial state ills as high property taxes, school funding, road repairs and people leaving the state, which he said is not only because of the weather.
One substantive comment was that he wants a constitutional convention to examine reforming the state’s tax structure. This would be significant. One way to reduce property taxes is to find another way to fund public schools. A convention likely would be needed to accomplish that.
Mocking Murphy’s regular comments about wanting a stronger and fairer New Jersey, Ciattarelli said, “How about someone lowering our damn property taxes?”
Before Ciattarelli gets a shot at the governor, he has to get the Republican nomination. It’s way early, but other possible candidates are Doug Steinhardt, the state chair, and Jon Bramnick, the Assembly Minority Leader.
If he gets the nomination, Ciattarelli said the next question is, “Can a Republican win?”
There are about 1 million more registered Democrats statewide than Republicans.
Ciattarelli says history provides the answer. The last three Democratic governors – Corzine, McGreevey and Florio – were not reelected. To see the last Democratic governor who served two terms, you have to go back to Brendan Byrne, who won his second term way back in 1977.
And that last Dem governor not reelected, Jon Corzine, originally came from – not New Jersey – but Illinois.