InsiderNJ spoke with several GOP leaders from around the state to see if they think the primary race for governor is competitive and they uniformly blandly offered one word:
is ahead in the Republican contest.
No one believes him. Granted, they’re establishment players, but they also say they see genuine support – and excitement – for frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli.
It’s been a challenging primary for Ciattarelli, who throws just enough red meat to the base (going around without a mask and shunning the media) to make him a credible Trump-era Republican, while also talking bluntly about Main Street in preparation for his frontal assault in the general election against Goldman Sachs alumnus Phil Murphy.
“He’s a talented guy,” Ciattarelli told InsiderNJ in the 2017 Republican Primary, in reference to Singh, who that year appeared young and vibrant.
“He’s got a bright future,” added the former 16th District Republican Assemblyman, not unkindly, but merely to put an exclamation point on his belief that Singh still had some years to go before becoming a serious contender.
Four years later, Singh has failed congressional and senate bids under his belt and is in the closing weeks of a gubernatorial effort that has irritated some of New Jersey’s gray-bearded establishment, even as Singh – in that short period of time – has actually gone semi gray himself.
As it turned out in time for 2021, he didn’t need any seasoning in elected office anyway – at least by the looks of Ciattarelli’s curriculum vitae, which conveniently scrubs his experience in elected office, lest he offend a GOP base offended by elected office.
But the establishment still isn’t amused by the upstart.
Word has gotten back to several upper echelon players in the party that Singh has blanketed too many people into the RINO category, and they want to punish him.
Singh probably feels that he has them on the run.
A party chair, speaking on condition of anonymity this morning, said if Singh wins, it’s essentially time for him to pack his bags and leave.
“The two-party system is teetering,” said the source, a reference to the overwhelming numerical advantage Democrats have in New Jersey.
If Singh somehow runs over the organizations-backed candidate on June 8th, he will have exposed a level of sheer irrelevance among those party chairs imitating their Democratic counterparts imitating George Norcross that would finish the Republican Party here as a non-anarchical option.
But no one’s scared.
They’ve seen Singh too many times.
“I truly don’t understand the hatred Singh is spewing,” another source said.
As if to undo the week’s earlier poll, Hirsh Singh’s campaign appeared to return to reality today by issuing a statement condemning fellow non-factor Phil Rizzo.
From the release:
Phil Rizzo, who voted against President Trump, is embracing a bizarre, militant-liberal-inspired, anti-religion campaign strategy down the homestretch.
First it was his anti-Catholic comments that were unearthed by SaveJersey.com:
“It’s a very strong Catholic stronghold here. In a one-square mile town there’s seven Catholic churches. I don’t know if these people have ever heard the gospel. Not only are they in bondage to their sin but they’re in bondage to religion,” Phil Rizzo said.
Now, a top Rizzo supporter named Eric Martindale attacked Hirsh Singh and the Indian American community—the fastest growing constituency in the Republican Party.
Martindale said, “I’d respect him [Hirsh Singh] MORE if he grew a beard, wrapped a towel around his head, and practiced his own religion.”
Martindale’s injection of racism and identity politics follows the exact playbook of the Democrat Party, NOT the Republican Party. The Republican Party stands for Religious Liberty, NOT Religious Bigotry. Rizzo should immediately denounce Martindale and explain his own past of anti-Catholic bigotry.
“Phil Rizzo and his campaign are becoming increasingly desperate and unhinged,” said Hirsh Singh, the only pro-Trump candidate in the race. “He can’t win the Republican nomination and he can’t win the governorship by attacking Trump supporters, Catholics, and Indian Americans.”
It appeared that Rizzo and Ciattarelli had something in common besides their gubernatorial aspirations.
They didn’t have Singh’s unadulterated man crush on Trump.
Wondering about the Trump factor, InsiderNJ spoke with 2020 NJ for Trump Campaign Co-Chair Joe Pennacchio, a Republican senator from Morris County.
Pennacchio backs Ciattarelli.
He made the point that he doesn’t love Ciattarelli.
“He’s not Murphy,” said the Republican diehard, when asked what he does like about the frontrunner.
But that’s enough for him.
“Murphy’s just over the top,” Pennacchio said. “He wants to be the heir apparent to the ‘woke’ generation and he’s using New Jersey as an incubator.”
InsiderNJ asked him if he had seen Ciattarelli’s latest ad, the one where he affects a tough stance in a pizza parlor, a perhaps slightly less outrageous image than Murphy’s ad from four years ago when he tried to convince the rest of New Jersey that he was one of us by getting an actor to play himself as a teenage pearl diver.
“We all came from humble beginnings,” Pennacchio said. “I was shining shoes in Coney Island at eight years old.”
Maybe if Singh presented a harder luck narrative – instead of New Jersey’s constant candidate – he’d be in the contest.
In the meantime, he and Ciattarelli and Rizzo all at least share a disdain for the media, as they run from a question about what they thought about a crowd at the Utah GOP Convention menacingly booing Trump critic U.S. Senator Mitt Romney.
Of the contenders, former Somerset County Freeholder Brian D. Levine offered a response.
“I always believe that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion — Mitt Romney has the right to believe and vote as he sees fit; the Utah Republicans have the right to approve or disapprove of his actions. We should always keep in mind the entirety of a person’s career and service. Senator Romney has done as he deemed best for his constituents — in Massachusetts and in Utah. In addition, as a presidential candidate, he held and espoused his beliefs as to how the thought the USA should be run and the kind of leader he intended to be.”