The Triumphal New Jersey Republican Survivor of 2023: Michael Testa, Jr.

Cumberland County GOP Chair Michael Testa.

In August, I authored a column, “Will Election Night catapult Mike Testa?”    I described in the column, as I had before, both the remarkable legislative record of State Senator Michael Testa, Jr.  and his supreme effectiveness as Cumberland County Republican Chair.

The answer to my question posed in the title of my piece was a resounding YES.   On an election night of unmistakable GOP catastrophe, Testa emerged as a New Jersey Republican superstar.

The election of 2023 was a total vindication of Testa’s record as State Senator representing New Jersey’s 1st Legislative District.  He was reelected last night by a resounding 65-35 majority.

His effectiveness as Cumberland County Republican Chair was even more graphically demonstrated.  The Republicans scored a clean sweep in Cumberland County, winning all three Commissioner seats and the row offices of sheriff and surrogate.

Testa also immediately prior to the election was vindicated on another salient issue, the leading vulnerability of Governor Phil Murphy, namely, the fiasco of Orsted.  Mike had been the leading outspoken legislative opponent of the ill-fated projects, and their collapse vindicated his policy insight and judgment.

Now the question becomes whether Testa runs for governor or Congress. Congressman Jeff Van Drew has been the leading Congressional opponent of Orsted and is now primed to run for the US Senate in 2024.  The Congressional seat he is vacating will be Testa’s for the asking.

Yet one can anticipate among both rank-and-file Republicans and New Jersey Republican officials, starving for victory a rising call for Testa to run for governor.  This call will be spurred by the discrediting this week of the triumvirate that has been dominating the New Jersey Republican Party: 1) the present leading Republican candidate for governor, Jack Ciattarelli; 2) his consultant and lead strategist, Chris Russell; and 3) the current Chair of the New Jersey Republican Party, Bob Hugin.

The discrediting of le Triumvirat Republicain involved a deceptive mail piece described in an article by Erik Larsen in the Asbury Park Press.  The campaign piece appears to have been designed by Chris Russell and financed by a dark money SuperPAC largely funded by Hugin himself.  It was intended to damage the state senate reelection campaign of Vin Gopal.  Gopal scored a decisive reelection victory, and the damage to the credibility and competency of Russell and Hugin is monumental.

While Ciattarelli does not appear to have been involved in the mail piece himself, his viability as a gubernatorial candidate is now very much in question, given his involvement in le Triumvirat Republicain.  Hugin has been a dismal failure as the chair of the NJGOP, and the losses incurred by the Republicans in this election will be attributed to this trio, especially after Russell’s pre-election appearance on the New Jersey Spotlight News ChatBox show, in which he boasted how Election Night would be a night of GOP triumph.  Now Hugin and Russell look like salesmen of 1958 Edsels, with Ciattarelli along for the ride.

A call for an alternative 2025 GOP gubernatorial candidate to Jack Ciattarelli will become a recurrent theme in Jersey GOP politics during the next few weeks.  The principal opponent to Ciattarelli currently involved in the race is ultra right wing radio host Bill Spadea.  He is thoroughly unelectable, and his role at the head of a New Jersey GOP ticket in 2025 would be a case of Republican political suicide.

State Senator Jon Bramnick appears to want to enter the 2025 GOP Republican sweepstakes.  He is a man of total decency, an individual without scandal and a person with excellent political and policy skills.  The leading obstacle to his candidacy is the abhorrence the forces of MAGA have towards him.  In my view, this is a badge of honor, but nevertheless, an insuperable political handicap.

There is another political obstacle that Bramnick faces.  He is perceived to be the gubernatorial candidate of the forces of Chris Christie.  Yes, the same Chris Christie who left office with a popularity rating of 18 percent.

This perception of Bramnick as the recipient of the dubious Christie anointment was reinforced by an interview given on NJ Spotlight News by Republican acolyte and former Christie consultant Mike Duhaime.  He began a passage by extolling the former political leadership of Chris Christie and ended by citing Bramnick as a model for GOP victory.

Duhaime displayed remarkable political ineptitude by not even mentioning Testa on his night of triumph.  I needed some humor this election night, and I found Duhaime’s adulation of Christie to be as hilarious as Groucho Marx in the old “You Bet Your Life” television show.

The ideal person for the NJGOP to join forces behind for the 2025 Republican gubernatorial nomination is Mike Testa, who is long on both charisma and substance and short on baggage.  While he has spearheaded certain cultural conservative endeavors, his appeal as a conservative has been Reaganesque, as contrasted with Spadea’s thoroughly dystopian messaging.

So the calls will go out from the GOP grassroots to the Republican halls of Trenton for Mike Testa to run for governor in 2025.  How will Mike Testa respond to those calls of “Run, Mike, run?”

Stay tuned.

Alan J. Steinberg of Highland Park 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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2 responses to “The Triumphal New Jersey Republican Survivor of 2023: Michael Testa, Jr.”

  1. I believe Mike will make a great governor he’s a very smart individual he knows what he wants and he goes for

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