Two years ago, Atlantic County Republicans offered Hirsh Singh what looked like the break of a lifetime for a young Republican aspiring to hold public office: a chance to run for State Assembly in a politically competitive district.
Singh turned it down, three party insiders told the New Jersey Globe. He said the state legislature was beneath him and that he was destined for greater things than holding local office.
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After running for office five times in four years and never making it to a general election, Singh’s third-place finish in Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial primary has left the 36-year-old Peter Pan-like candidate’s fledgling political career in shatters and potentially no path to ever win public office.
The Democratic assemblyman from the 2nd district, John Armato (D-Buena), won by just 986 votes in what turned out to be the closest race in the state in 2019.
“He could have won that race,” said one Republican strategist, who asked not to be identified. “He speaks well. He’s a decent campaigner. He can stay on message. And his father’s money would have gone a long way in Atlantic County.”
Instead, Singh has now run twice for governor, twice for U.S. Senate, and once for Congress.
With the organization line in Atlantic and four other counties, the 2018 run for an open Republican House seat might have been his best option. But Singh squandered the opportunity and lost to off-the-line Seth Grossman by 9 points.
His recent scorched-earth campaign against the new GOP standard bearer, Jack Ciattarelli, didn’t work. He finished third with just 21.5% of the vote and wound up ceding the pro-Trump mantle to a politician with real world experience, real estate developer-turned-pastor Phil Rizzo.
Singh fought to get into debates and then inexplicably ducked one of them. His campaign manager, King Penna, picked — and lost – a bizarre fight with Ciattarelli’s wife. And on the last day of the campaign, he got called out for faking an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Now people are wondering what he’ll do next – one Republican officeholder, only half-kidding, suggested that Singh might start making trips to Iowa and New Hampshire – but few think he’s ready to confess his own limitations.
“When you run five times, you can no longer say you made a mistake. This is who you are. This is the brand you create for yourself. You make a conscious decision to surround yourself with the kind of people you do and run the kind of campaigns you run,” said Essex County Republican Chairman Al Barlas. “At this point, you have no reason to believe he’s a serious person, yet alone a serious candidate.”
With no statewide races until 2024, Singh’s options are limited.
He could try to run against Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) in the New Jersey’s third district – that might necessitate his parents buying a beach house with a basement – but there’s not much of an appetite for his candidacy.
“Hirsh’s behavior and underhanded tactics have soured Republicans across the state, including me,” said Burlington County Republican Chairman Sean Earlen.
Politics might not be the best fit for Singh, at least until he has completely grown up.
“Our party not only needs the right message but the right messengers to win elections,” said Earlen. “I, for one, am not a fan of the way he runs his campaigns or the people he surrounds himself with.”
In the meantime, Singh is due in court later this month to defend himself against a defamation lawsuit filed the winner of the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary, Rik Mehta.
“Singh’s humiliating loss should signal to future politicians that deceptive and dirty campaigns never win,” said Mehta. “I am even more optimistic now about the future of the Republican party and our conservative base”.