It’s so far away that it feels somewhat silly to even discuss at times, but like it or not the race to succeed Phil Murphy is already in its early stages, Save Jerseyans.
Jack Ciattarelli announced a third bite at the apple immediately upon conceding the 2021 race last November. NJ 101.5’s Bill Spadea is acting like a candidate.
Enter Doug Steinhardt.
The former NJGOP chairman and current Warren GOP chairman Doug Steinhardt made waves last week when David Wildstein confirmed a circulating rumor that state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) was shifting his focus towards a run for county office and Steinhardt step into the breach by standing for his seat.
In case you’ve forgotten, Steinhardt abruptly aborted a 2021 primary candidate for governor which left Jack Ciattarelli an open lane to the nomination. At the time, Steinhardt cited inescapble professional obligations. He is a partner at a politically-connected New Jersey law firm (Florio Perrucci Steinhardt Cappelli, Tipton & Taylor LLC) which includes members of both parties including name partner and former Democrat Governor Jim Florio.
The popular theory: the immediate aftermath of January 6th soured the firm’s appetite for a high profile campaign. He’s nevertheless remained visible and active, and a Senate seat could give him a natural launching pad for a second run in 2025.
Two immediate questions:
1. Assuming Trump/January 6th was the issue, is it still an issue 2 1/2 years from now? Will Steinhardt’s firm embrace a 2025 run? The answer may depend on the current status of Donald Trump. Is he reelected? Awaiting trial? Or (probably least likely) absent the headlines? None of us have a crystal ball.
2. Who would stand to gain and lose from Steinhardt’s hypothetical entry into the race? Ciattarelli is the favorite of the “establishment” defined here as a majority of the elected party leadership and operative class at least as of now, so presumably another candidate competing with Spadea for support in Ocean, Middlesex, and sections of South Jersey without a firm allegiance to any candidate is good for Team Jack. Yet we obviously don’t know what the battle lines will look like two cycles from now.