“I think that the fact that Doug did not give up his position on Donald Trump posed a real challenge in November, especially with what happened on Wednesday. I think that poses a challenge for all Republicans, ”said Al Barlas, Republican President of Essex County, referring to the riots. “I’m not saying we can’t overcome it, we can’t face it. But it is a challenge. “
Even though Steinhardt, a lawyer in private practice, stayed the course and won the GOP nomination, the gubernatorial gate was likely closed. His candidacy could be among the first in the country to end with the events of January 6.
Just as the election of Chris Christie in 2009 to the post of governor heralded the takeover of the House of Representatives by the GOP in 2010, New Jersey – which, along with Virginia, is one of only two states to have an election for governor this year – could again be an early indicator of political winds.
But this is far from being a perfect political omen. New Jersey has one million more registered Democrats than Republicans, has not elected a Republican U.S. senator in nearly 50 years, and has voted blue in every presidential election since 1992. But Republicans can and do win governorates in the United States. Garden State. And while Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy gained approval in the 1960s as his re-election campaign approached, New Jerseyens’ views of their elected leadership can – and have – change quickly.
Steinhardt was not only generically pro-Trump. He was thoroughly.
Its main strategist was Bill Stepien, a native of New Jersey who served as Trump’s campaign manager. In a video in December announcing his candidacy, Steinhardt said, “Let me be very clear on this: I support President Trump. I still have. Some have abandoned our president during difficult times, hoping he wouldn’t notice.
And last week, just hours before crowds inspired by Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud stormed the U.S. Capitol, he posted one of his first campaign ads, describing his main opponent of the GOP nomination, former Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli, as anti-Trump. . Even after the riot, Steinhardt did not blame the president.
“The actions of violent criminals do not speak for Republicans and supporters of President Trump,” he told POLITICO. “The popular conservative movement that I am proud to represent here in New Jersey supports democracy and the rule of law.”
Still, Steinhardt spoke with some Republican leaders in New Jersey in the aftermath of the insurgency to assess its effect on his candidacy, according to a GOP source who asked not to be identified in private discussions.
Steinhardt is a partner at the law firm Florio, Perucci, Steinhardt and Capelli, which was founded by former Democratic Governor Jim Florio and has prominent clients in the public and private sectors. In an interview on Tuesday, Florio said he had recently spoken to Steinhardt, who told him he was “considering” whether to continue running.
Florio said he had not put any pressure on Steinhardt to drop out of the race and that he had not heard any of the law firm’s clients express reservations.
Big business has previously said they will deny any donation to Republican members of Congress who backed Trump’s baseless claims about the election and voted to overturn the Electoral College results.
Steinhardt’s departure from the race likely paves the way for Ciattarelli, who has officially been racing for a year, to secure the party nomination to challenge Murphy.
Murphy, a progressive Democrat running for reelection, is popular but not invulnerable. His administration has seen a major #MeToo scandal, his tenure has been marked by intense intra-partisan rivalry, and he has come under fire for his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 20,000 New Jersey residents.
Ciattarelli, although a moderate member of the General Assembly and openly critical of Trump at the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, has started to praise Trump. before launching his own gubernatorial campaign early last year.
He was a guest speaker at a recent “Stop the Steal” rally that followed the president’s false claims of electoral fraud. And in a statement following the Capitol Riots, Ciattarelli did not blame Trump, but rather “the political leaders of both parties” who “share responsibility for the hyper-partisan rhetoric.”
Democrats aren’t going to let voters forget Ciattarelli’s late embrace of Trump, nor his comments on the riots.
Minutes after Steinhardt’s withdrawal from the race, the Murphy campaign issued a statement attacking Ciattarelli for “completely failing to blame Trump, his enablers and supporters.”
The only potential bright spot for Republicans in New Jersey is that Ciattarelli now faces only nominal opposition for the GOP nomination from perennial nominee Hirsh Singh and possibly former Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine. Deadlines for Republican latecomers to compete for support of local GOP organizations begin this weekend, including in Ocean County – a hugely important red stronghold in a Republican primary.
An uncompetitive primary would allow Ciattarelli to attack Murphy instead of fighting a fellow Republican in a primary and taking positions that could hurt him in the general election. But he still faces a divided party with a base that remains staunchly loyal to Trump.
“It’s a minority party to begin with, but in order to have a minority party that is badly divided, you first have to overcome all these internal problems, and only then can you overcome the huge deficit in the country. ‘Blue state you would face’. said Micah Rasmussen, professor of political science at Rider University. “It’s a tall order.”