A Roundup of 2017 Republican Gubernatorial Candidates

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is still undeclared in the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial race. Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

With current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s term scheduled to come to an end in January of 2018, a number of Christie’s fellow Republicans are already angling to keep the party in power of the highest state office. In June 2017, the declared Republicans in the race will face off in a primary to determine which candidate will get the party’s nomination to challenge the Democratic nominee in the November 2017 general election.

So far Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers and businessman Joe Rullo have declared that they will be pursuing the nomination for the Republican side. Other big name candidates including Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and comedian Joe Piscopo are also believed to be contenders, among others.

So how do the Republican candidates stack up?

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno

While Guadagno has not said publicly that she will be officially entering the race, Christie’s second-in-command is widely considered a favorite for the party nomination. On Tuesday, a list of prominent New Jersey Republicans including NJ GOP Chairman Sam Raia, state Senator Diane Allen, three county Republican chairs (Monmouth, Middlesex and Gloucester), and three GOP state committeepeople all issued a statement pledging “their personal support of her potential candidacy.” Endorsements such as those help bring validity to rumors that Guadagno will eventually enter the race.

As Christie’s Lieutenant, Guadagno has had significant experience as acting governor on the occasions that Christie was out of state. However, while Guadagno has a strong relationship to some in New Jersey including business owners, she has made very little public impact overall. Guadagno has most notably made news for her few differences with Christie on issues like the gas tax hike.

Since she is not yet a declared candidate, Guadagno has yet to file anything regarding her candidacy with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). The possible candidate has, however, launched a 501c4 called Building a Better New Jersey Together. The mission statement of that organization is to “unite New Jerseyans around the shared goal of a smaller, more efficient government that fights for our middle class families and protects our most vulnerable, all while opening opportunities for the residents of our state to enjoy a more prosperous future.”

As of now, Guadagno has stated that she will make her decision whether to run or not public after the holidays.

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough).

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough) has declared that he will be pursuing the nomination. Max Pizarro for Observer

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16)

The Republican assemblyman officially entered the governor’s race in October 2016. He has said that, if elected, his tenure as governor would focus on boosting New Jersey’s economy and making across-the-board cuts in order to save taxpayer money. He has also said that he hopes to restructure the current school funding formula in New Jersey in order to fairly distribute funds to children in the state.

For Cittarelli—an assemblyman since 2012—the state needs Republican leadership that differs from what Christie has brought to N.J. during his two terms. While a number of high-level Republicans came out in favor of Guadagno on Tuesday, the assemblyman also has some high-level supporting including Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo.

While some have predicted that Guadagno’s eventual entrance in to the race could potentially clear the field of other Republican candidates, Ciattarelli seems committed to his gubernatorial run. He has filed with ELEC to run in the primary.

Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers

Rogers is a commissioner from Nutley who is now pursuing the governorship.

Rogers is a commissioner from Nutley who is now pursuing the governorship. Alyana Alfaro for Observer

Rogers announced his candidacy last week during an event in Morristown. According to the Nutley commissioner, his goal for New Jersey is to make the state more affordable for both businesses and residents. He also said he would focus energy on ending drug trafficking in the state and on education if elected.

During the campaign of now President-Elect Donald Trump, Rogers was a key New Jersey advisor. That stands in contrast to both Ciattarelli and Guadagno, both of whom did not support Trump during his presidential campaign. That move might put Rogers in good standing with New Jersey Trump supporters and help him in the Republican primary. Rogers has said he is enthusiastic about Trump’s win and believes that he can build on that momentum moving forward.

Businessman Joe Rullo

Joseph Rudy Rullo is running for governor in 2017.

Joseph Rudy Rullo is running for governor in 2017. Joseph Rullo

Rullo is an Ocean County business owner who has never held elected office. But, according to the candidate, his outsider status is a good thing. Like Rogers, Rullo was an early and enthusiastic Trump supporter in New Jersey. Because Trump has also never held elected office, Rullo has said that he believes he can win in the same way that Trump did as Americans look for candidates who aren’t entrenched in the political world.

According to Rullo, he hopes to end the outmigration in New Jersey through sweeping reforms including the legalization of marijuana in order to bring in tax revenue. As with the other candidates, Rullo also said he wants to overhaul the way New Jersey’s schools are funded and decrease the size of government.

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-21) has also been floated as a potential candidate in the Republican primary. He has said that he is still considering a run but wants to wait to see what the field looks like before making a final decision. Evesham Mayor Randy Brown is also allegedly weighing a run as is comedian Joe Piscopo, a Saturday Night Live alum.

Whoever is selected from among the Republican field in June will face off against the Democratic candidate. As of now, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy is considered the Democratic favorite. However, that field also includes Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), Former Undersecretary of the Treasury Jim Johnson and activist Bill Brennan.