Assemblyman David Rible’s impending resignation now that he has been tapped by Gov. Chris Christie to head the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control creates an unexpected opening on the Republican assembly ticket in the state’s 30th legislative district.
Rible’s nomination will now head to the state Senate for confirmation, although no date for a hearing has been set.
Republicans will need to hold a special convention to fill the Assembly that seat Rible, the GOP whip, has held since 2008. Whoever is selected to finish Rible’s term likely would also run in November with Assemblyman Sean Kean in the race against Democratic Assembly candidates Eliot Colon and Kevin Scott.
David Brown, chairman of the Monmouth County Democrats, said that Rible leaving the race has not changed Democratic strategy, particularly in light of a damaged GOP brand in the state and record-low approval ratings for Christie.
“We wish Assemblyman Dave Rible well,” Brown said. “With Governor Christie’s record low approval ratings, we plan to compete aggressively.”
Montclair State University political science science professor Brigid Harrison said the impending ticket shakeup will likely have little impact on the race dynamics due to the Republican-leaning nature of the district. The district has not had a Democratic representative in either the state Senate or Assembly since 1991.
“I think of it as being a very safe Republican district,” Harrison said. “Like most of the districts in the state, it is really designed not to be competitive. It was really designed to protect the incumbent party, in this case Republicans. So choosing the nominee will be an important decision because it is likely that that person will be able to kind of slide into office.”
Rible is a skilled fundraiser and the second-highest-ranking lawmaker in the Republican caucus after Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union). The ABC position would mark a retreat from politics and a return to law enforcement for the assemblyman, a former police officer.
Rible would be replacing Jonathan Orsen, the acting ABC director since Michael Halfacre resigned in 2015. Christie nominated Orsen for a seat on the state tax court in May and his nomination was endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
“I’m humbled with the governor’s trust and confidence,” Rible told More Monmouth Musings.