Having spent nearly four decades in public life and 12 years in the state senate, moderate Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) – a consummate gentleman with a bipartisan style and genteel, problem-solving-centric sense of statesmanship – announced today that he would not to seek reelection.
“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” he told InsiderNJ this afternoon in a Zoom interview (see below).
A prosecutor by trade and son of the late Ray Bateman, who served as president of the state senate and ran for governor in 1977, Kip Bateman acknowledged how his district has changed, going back to 2011 redistricting, which jettisoned Bridgewater and replaced it with South Brunswick, and the fact that now 15,000 more Democrats than Republicans reside in the 16th. The era of President Donald J. Trump hurt, too, as Bateman’s home base, Somerset County, went from Republican to Democratic Party rule.
“I was hoping for redistricting,” said the senator, but following heart surgery and three weeks into recovery and having welcomed a new grandson, Bateman said he arrived at his decision.
2021 will be a tough legislative year for the GOP, he said.
“I’ve been doing it for 38 years and my family thought you’ve dedicated half your life to public service, maybe it’s time to take care of yourself,” explained the senator, in reference to his decision not to pursue reelection. “I thought I could have won again. It was not an easy decision. I have a lot of friends in Trenton. I love being a senator. I’ll really miss it. I was never a Trumper. I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t believe in his style and I think he’s hurt the Republican Party. I’m proud to be a Republican, but the Republican Party in New Jersey and around the country really needs to redefine ourselves. What happened in Washington was a disgrace.
“It’s going to be a tough year for Republicans, for a while,” he added. “Donald Trump doesn’t speak for all of us.”
Bateman’s former LD16 slate mate, Jack Ciattarelli, is the likely 2021 GOP nominee for governor against incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.
“Jack will be our nominee,” said Bateman, who insists he can win. “It’s a very difficult state for Republicans. I’m a moderate. I’ve always viewed Republicans as moderate. I’m middle of the road, and most people are middle of the road. Most people are not left or right but somewhere in that middle. Jack has a strong message. We’re going to have to rebuild the Republican Party. Government is much better with two parties. People like checks and balances.”
Bateman will miss the job once he finally leaves Trenton at the end of this year.
“I never had a problem when it was all R’s or all D’s,” said the determinedly moderate lawmaker. “I’ve done a lot of legislation with Democratic senators. They never treated me [badly], just as I never treated them badly when I was in the majority. I treated them well… but there’s no question that one party rule for too long is not good. We’re going to have a tough year holding onto what we have now. I don’t see any change.”