While the majority of the country is still focused on the results of Tuesday night’s presidential election, the focus in New Jersey has already shifted to state’s the 2017 gubernatorial contest.
With Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie poised to leave New Jersey and head to Washington as a member of President-elect Trump’s cabinet or staff, it seems like that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno will be promoted to governor in the near future. That move by Christie would allow for Guadagno to run as an incumbent in 2017, something that would drastically change the dynamics of the Republican primary in June. Currently, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) and businessman Joe Rullo are declared candidates on the Republican side of the race. However, other names like Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) and state Senator Mike Doherty have been thrown around as potential candidates. According to Doherty, however, his much speculated run will not happen.
“At this point I have no particular interest in running for governor in 2017. I intend to run for re-election to the New Jersey state senate,” Doherty said. “I think Lieutenant Governor Guadagno being promoted to governor would probably clear the field.”
Doherty said that he has “great admiration” for both Ciattarelli and Guadagno. He said that he has spoken with both about his belief that party-wide focus on a fair school funding plan during the next election will be critical to getting Republicans elected at all levels of government including the legislature, at the municipal level and on school boards statewide.
“I have certainly spoken with both and expressed my strong desire that whoever the gubernatorial candidate is that we actually need to have a statewide campaign on my fair school funding plan which has now been promoted by Governor Christie under the fairness formula,” Doherty said. “I think this they key to Republicans actually gaining back some seats in the legislature and actually having a chance to win in 2017.”
Under that school funding plan, students throughout New Jersey will be given an equal share of state funding regardless of region. Currently, there are a number of districts identified statewide that receive more funds due to perceived need. According to some like Doherty and Christie, that funding is unfair to those living in suburban and rural areas due to the increased taxes they must pay in order to make up the difference in funding. Opponents of the plan to equalize funding across the board say it is unconstitutional and harms students in less affluent and urban areas of the state.
While Rullo is a non-establishment candidate who backed Trump in the general election, neither Guadagno or Ciattarelli supported the now president-elect. According to early and outspoken Trump supporter Doherty, both Ciattarelli and Guadagno will have to face their lack of support for the president when dealing with New Jerseyans in the upcoming election. He said he did not agree, however, with Rullo’s proclamation that Republican gubernatorial candidates who did not back Trump leading up to the presidential race should consider withdrawal from the 2017 contest.
“It is unfortunate that they didn’t support President-elect Trump. I knew he was going to win and I don’t know why they didn’t support him,” Doherty said. “Perhaps they should have said nothing. I think they would be in a much better position. It was unnecessary to say those things about President-elect Trump during the campaign. “
According to Doherty, Republicans could have taken a page from Democrats’ book leading up to the election. Doherty said that despite dislike of Clinton on the Democratic side, candidates and officials on that side practiced significant self control to not damage the party.
“You shouldn’t be throwing out fodder that can be used to hurt the top of the ticket before Election Day,” Doherty said.
In addition to making fair school funding a focus, Doherty said that Republicans in the Garden State must use Trump’s win as a roadmap for the state’s future. He said that corruption and “crony capitalism” must be put to an end in New Jersey in order to win back the trust of average voters.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate will likely face Democrat Phil Murphy in 2017.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, publisher of Observer Media.