Ciattarelli launches N.J. gubernatorial campaign in Freehold

Is the third time the charm?

Addressing a tightly-packed ballroom on Tuesday night at Freehold’s American Hotel, one of the waypoints for then President-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to Washington, D.C. for his first inauguration, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli unambiguously expressed his belief that it will be.

“Across the country, political talking heads were asking themselves how the hell a guy with a name most people couldn’t pronounce defied the polls, the predictions, and the pundits,” Ciattarelli recalled to a full room of several hundred supporters. “How the hell did we nearly knock off an incumbent governor in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by one million? In all 21 counties and 564 towns? We almost pulled it off because of people like you.”

Ciattarelli did fall only a few points short of defeating Phil Murphy in 2021 despite polling showing a less-than-competitive race. That was his second statewide run mounted after losing a battle for the GOP nomination with Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno back in 2017. The Somerset County businessman indicated that he would run again in 2025 during his 2021 concession speech and has spent the intervening period endlessly campaigning across the state.

The 2025 primary could prove more challenging than the 2021 intra-party contest which failed to yield a serious challenger. State Senator Jon Bramnick of Union County is already in the race, and NJ 101.5 morning host Bill Spadea is expected to join the contest later this year. In fact, Spadea supporters had placed a noticable number of their man’s “Common Sense Club” signs along the route to the American Hotel. Monmouth could prove a key battleground in next spring’s nominating contest; the county GOP organization appears strongly in Ciattarelli’s camp (Sheriff Shaun Golden who opened the event, Clerk Christine Halon, Commissioner Tom Arnone, Middletown Mayor Tony Perry and Assembly members Gerry Scharfenberger and Victoria Flynn were all in attendence), but Monmouth is also well inside the NJ 101.5 listening area and, if the county line goes away in the interim, things could get interesting quickly.

Ciattarelli struck familiar themes of reining in government, cutting waste, affirming parental rights and lowering taxes in his relatively concise remarks, but he also made a little news by proposing term limits for state legislators. Specifically, an eight year max for both assemblymen and senators. Ciattarelli also specifically promised to “appoint an attorney general who supports police and parents.”

Turning to the forming race at hand, Ciattarelli threw a few elbows at his primary opponents. Attacking Bramnick without naming him, Ciattarelli pledged to “convince Democrats to support our ideas” but not be a governor with a “minority mentality” who “surrenders to Democratic Party bosses over hot dogs and hamburgers,” a reference to Bramnick’s infamous pandemic-era backyard cookout with the Democrat governor. Ciattarelli continued on to decry “personal insults” and “extreme rhetoric,” presumably a thinly-veiled reference to the sharp-tongued Spadea.

New Jersey Republicans won’t vote for their preferred standard-bearer until June 2025.

Democrats haven’t settled on a candidate of their own though outgoing Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and former-Senate President Steve Sweeney are both in the mix with more expected to join the race.

Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8532 Articles
MATT ROONEY is's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.