A Senate Primary Without Bumpers

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

street fight


New Jersey Republicans aren’t accustomed to competitive primaries. The closest we’ve seen in recent history was back in 2005 (the first statewide race in which your Blogger-in-Chief was eligible to vote) when Doug Forrester edged by Bret Schundler by less than 5-points in a very crowded field.

The unusual combination of distracted Christie political organization (that isn’t very antagonistic towards Cory Booker to begin with) and a strong incumbent Democrat kept the pre-ordained establishment favorites and multi-millionaire federal aspirants on the sidelines. What’s more, Trenton let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that it really doesn’t give a damn who wins the nomination. 

Some folks do care.

The state’s GOP chairmen, by agreement, were actively hunting for self-funders in their respective counties. Ocean County’s George Gilmore is presently was encouraging Chris Isola, a combat veteran and well-heeled financial sector executive, to wade into the U.S. Senate race rather than explore a run in CD3 now that Tom MacArthur has secured establishment approval. Isola confirmed on Friday that he’s decided against it.

Barring a game-changer in the next few days attributable to the hypothetical late-entrant’s personal resources, the NJ GOP will remain an agnostic disposition towards the race, so that means the party is poised for a rare county-to-county contest.

The chairmen are making gut decisions or ceding control of the decision to their committee members. Essex County Chairman Al Barlas gave the nod to Brian Goldberg on Thursday. Rich Pezzullo won the Union County convention last weekend

Conservative surrogates are getting in on the act, too. Professor Murray Sabrin earned the backing of Ron Paul (it’s a libertarian thing) and former Reagan campaign staffer Jeff Bell who once toppled an incumbent U.S. Senator secured the support of Lonegan (perhaps Lonegan, the consument rebel, empathized with his story?).

Only the least-practical among us think it’s a happy thing to face a popular officeholder with undeniable star power without the cash to fight back. Even in a 2010-ish federal cycle, it’s hard to imagine a GOP contender cracking the low-40’s threshold without (1) a huge Booker scandal or (2) a lottery jackpot. I’m frankly not sure which is less likely given the media’s determination to avoid #1.

That doesn’t mean this senate situation is devoid of a silver-lining. Unconstrained by conventional wisdom, we might see a fresher face land a few lucky punches and emerge as stronger competitors down the road. We’re a state party in search of leadership.

You never know where it’s going to come from. Honest, hard-fought, no-bumpers-in-the-gutters primaries are a great place to start.

30 thoughts on “A Senate Primary Without Bumpers

  1. I wouldn’t characterize Murray Sabrin, Rich Pezzullo, or Jeff Bell as the kind of “fresh faces” voters are looking for.

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