EDISON – Gov. Chris Christie brought his reform caravan to this residential sprawl capital of Central Jersey this afternoon, packing a crowd of hard-boiled Republican operatives and their friends into the Senior Center against the political backdrop of what the GOP hopes will be a competitive Middlesex County.
“They’ve never seen this many Republican door knockers here,” said Middlesex County Republican Chairman Sam Thompson, huddled up at the front of the room with Sylvia Engel, 20-year chair of the Edison Republican Party, referring to the county terrain. “We have two phone banks operational.”
A day after a Tea Party candidate took out the Christie-backed establishment Republican Mike Castle in Delaware, the GOP had to answer for what looks like a deepened fracture in their party, underscored over the summer when the Republican committee had their own digs on one corner of the Middlesex county fair and the Tea Party people occupied another tent on the exact opposite side of the fair grounds.
Asked about what Democrats are trying to message as the Republican wacko factor, businessman David Rosenthal, a Republican candidate for county freeholder, said he has connected well with Congressional campaigns embodying both wings of the GOP: Highlands Mayor Anna Little (a proud, Tea Party-approved Republican in the 6th Congressional District), and Princeton venture capitalist Scott Sipprelle (the GOP’s establishment choice in the 12th District June primary).
“I don’t think Anna Little is an extremist,” said Rosenthal. “She is pro life and fiscal conservative. I think Scott Sipprelle is also a conservative. We are a lot a like. We’re both businessman who have never elected office.”
Dumped out of office last year in a razor-thin primary, former Edison Mayor Jun Choi appeared to be the most easily identifiable Democrat in the room.
“Here simply as a citizen,” he said.
Also in the room was former Summit Councilwoman Kelly Hatfield, whose governor’s appointment to the Parent and Information Resource Center (PIRC) is being held hostage in the judiciary committee while Christie continues his standoff with the Democratic-controlled legislature.
“I would be seriously surprised if the Democrats debate us,” Thompson told PolitickerNJ.com when asked if his candidates have been able to engage the entrenched Democratic Party incumbents.