Ryan Peters and Jean Stanfield: The Art of Appropriate and Cogent COVID Dissent

Stanfield, right, and Peters.

From the outset of the COVID -19 crisis, Governor Phil Murphy has been a national model of near flawless crisis leadership and management.

The governor’s superbly competent crisis leadership has manifested itself in five ways:


  1. Unwavering dedication and energy, emerging from a hospital bed after life-saving cancer surgery to devote round-the-clock attention to the crisis.


  1. Totally transparent and candid communication with the media and general public, characterized by a tone of candor yet hope.


  1.  Excellent policy judgment, establishing health as the predominant priority over the political temptation of a premature reopening of the New Jersey economy. He has also accurately emphasized the need for expanded testing prior to any economy reopening.


  1.  Strict avoidance of political partisanship, both in public communication and in dealing with the Trump administration.


  1.  Adherence to principle and avoidance of political concerns.


As distinguished from crisis leadership, crisis management involves the execution of policy. This involves the delegation of tasks to the appropriate individuals.

Governor Murphy has also excelled in crisis management.  His front office and cabinet are the best since that of Governor Tom Kean, whom Murphy often refers to in highly laudatory terms.  He has made most effective use of his team during this crisis.  Special recognition must be given to the Governor’s Chief Counsel Matt Platkin, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan.

If honest and respectful disagreement exists, however, leading Republicans may feel free to dissent from Murphy administration COVID policies and actions, provided that they meet the following two tests:


  1.  The dissent must be appropriate, expressed above all in a proper tone that is 1) devoid of any partisan edge and 2) most respectful of the governor, particularly at this time when the unity of the citizenry is essential.


  1.  The dissent must be cogent, expressed in a well-reasoned, substantive, constructive, and persuasive way.


The dissent expressed by leading Republicans at the outset of the crisis failed both these tests.  It was expressed in a highly ad hominem, hard edged manner, with obvious partisan motives.

Last week, however, the two Republican Assembly members representing New Jersey’s Eighth Legislative District expressed COVID dissent in a manner that totally complied with my two above mentioned criteria of appropriateness and cogency.

The first was an InsiderNJ column by Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters entitled “Construction Should Remain Open: Here’s How.”


The second was an InsiderNJ column by Republican Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield entitled “Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield: Open the Parks.”


It should be noted that the Peters column was written more as an alternative proposal, without a critical tone.  Full disclosure:  I tend to have more sympathy with the Peters proposal than that of Jean Stanfield.

Both columns, however, were excellently written, models of appropriateness and cogency. They both enhanced the quality of discourse and discussion of COVID issues in Trenton.  Ryan Peters and Jean Stanfield are excellent Assembly members who both deserve commendation.

And while we are at it, both these individuals are worthy of “Steinberg futurology.”  So here goes:

Ryan Peters is a millennial Republican superstar.  Just as Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa are the top prospects in the forthcoming NFL draft, Ryan Peters is the most likely future New Jersey GOP governor.

In a nutshell, Ryan Peters is a Republican Mikie Sherrill.  The Democratic Congresswoman and Peters are both graduates of the United States Naval Academy.  Peters is 38, and Sherrill is 48, so both are members of the same political generation.

And there are two features of Ryan Peters that enhance his political stardom.  One is his status as a former Navy Seal, proving his character as a man of superb courage.  The other is the fact that he has maintained a safe distance from Donald Trump, immunizing him from political Trump toxicity.

As I forecast in my Sunday column, “A Democratic Wave Election is Coming this November” (https://www.insidernj.com/democratic-wave-election-coming-this-november/), the 2020 election will be a scene of Republican catastrophe.  This will be followed by another New Jersey Republican disaster in 2021, in which Phil Murphy is reelected in a massive landslide, winning with at least 60 percent of the vote and carrying fifteen of New Jersey’s twenty-one counties.

There will, however be one bright New Jersey GOP star in that 2021 election in a scene of total Republican darkness.  It will be Ryan Peters, who will step up and successfully challenge incumbent Eighth District Democrat State Senator Dawn Addiego, an expatriate Republican.

While Ryan goes to the Senate, Jean Stanfield will be reelected to the Assembly.  She is 63, but a very young 63 at that.  Like Democratic State Senator Loretta Weinberg, Jean could remain a vital political force well into her eighties.  She will rise in leadership in the GOP Assembly caucus.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden will choose to serve only one term.  In 2024, the woman then serving as Joe’s vice president will run for president and select Phil Murphy as her running mate.

Ryan Peters will be a GOP State Senate star.  Either later in the 2020s or early in the 2030s, he will face Mikie Sherrill in the New Jersey gubernatorial race.  It will be the Battle of the New Jersey Political Naval Forces!  A race I’d love to write about!

At some point, Ryan Peters will be elected as New Jersey Governor.  He will select as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs his former running mate and six-term Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield.

You heard it here first, folks!

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.

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