BY JOSHUA SOTOMAYOR-EINSTEIN
Positive change has come to the New Jersey Republican Party. NJ GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt has brought on new staff and a new energy to state Republicans. He, and the State GOP, are pumping out press releases, statements, and policy critiques at an unheard-of rate. They are responding to the inane and insane tax and spend initiatives coming out of the Murphy administration, communicating with the public using social media with savvy, and positioning the party for growth with the successful AC Leadership Summit. Party building takes time and only the comically naïve would expect a sweep from blue to red or even purple possible with a GOP party membership deficit of hundreds of thousands, and a party that in the last few years was focused on managing decline rather than spreading its message. Yet new and dynamic leadership has created grounds for a growing optimism.
Steinhardt is building a big tent in which grassroots activists and big money donors, conservatives and libertarians, anti-establishment outsiders and party officials – groups not always natural friends – are working together for shared goals. Hirsch Singh, one-time anti-establishment gubernatorial primary candidate, is now the contender to beat for the GOP nomination for the House of Representatives in the 2nd NJ Congressional District. Bob Hugin, the rags to riches self-made man on the primary ballot for the GOP Senate nomination, is the personal embodiment of the American dream, a former U.S. Marine untainted by the Washington swamp. In the 5th NJ Congressional District, whether John McCann or Steven Lonegan takes the primary, the NJ GOP and its organs have a significant chance of winning back the traditionally Republican leaning district.
Regardless of the near-term election opportunities, the fact remains that for many years there has been a feeling amongst the rank and file of a disconnected party leadership with no commitment to building bridges across intra-party divides and with little interested in developing the infrastructure for growth. Though Christie’s gubernatorial tenure buoyed everyone’s expectation that he would build a better brand, even his most diehard cheerleaders now admit he failed at party building. Indeed, the party may have actually been stymied by Christie, who as head of the state party, seemed more focused on building a positive personal image than on spending any of his accumulated political capital on getting more Republicans elected. The NJ GOP is no longer in the awkward position of controlling only one of the elected elements of state government and is free to be a muscular opposition party. While many felt having the governor’s mansion alone necessitated allying with Tammany hall style bosses like Democrat State Senator/Union City Mayor Brian Stack, the NJ GOP is now building the foundation of a strong party infrastructure. Indeed, with the renewed energy, an amazing vigor, big tent philosophy, creative outreach, and commitment to party building, it seems Chairman Steinhardt is doing just that.
Hoboken resident Joshua Sotomayor-Einstein is a Republican State Committeeman.