Conservative Tricia Flanagan, one of six independent candidates for United States Senator, is running as an unabashed supporter of President Donald Trump.
An entrepreneur from Lawrenceville, Flanagan considers herself an independent Republican.
But unlike millionaire pharmaceutical company executive Bob Hugin, who’s taken to moderating his stance and has distanced himself from Trump since winning the Republican nomination in June, Flanagan has nothing but full-throated support for the president and what she calls MAGA Agenda.
In part, she sees her path to victory running through Trump-aligned voters feeling disenfranchised by Hugin’s pro-life stances.
“He said he’s in favor of liberal policies. He’s going to be a different kind of Republican?” Flanagan said. “We call that a Democrat, so I think I was being kind and gentle by calling him a RINO when you look at what he himself has said.”
While leveraging Trump’s popularity in a state where his favorability leaves something to be desired might seem an odd strategy, it’s just a matter of turnout for Flanagan.
She’s banking pulling in Trump voters not keen on casting a ballot for Hugin, who has publicly avoided an association with the president after contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to his 2016 presidential campaign.
She also hopes to capitalize on incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez’s ethics woes by picking up voters disillusioned with the senator, citing the closer-than-expected Democratic primary challenge he got from Lisa McCormick, who picked up almost 40% of the vote on June 5 without campaigning or really spending any money.
There’s some question about whether those voters – Democratic primary voters – would back a candidate fully behind Trump, but she also aims to target independent voters.
There are more unaffiliated voters in the state than Democrats or Republicans, and while conventional wisdom lends to those voters not truly being undecided, there could be an untapped cache of support there for a pro-Trump candidate.
But, it’s also possible that no such voting bloc exists, and that Flanagan’s candidacy will serve only to siphon votes from Hugin.
She didn’t consider that a likely possibility.
“He’s not going to get cross-over Democrats. You could argue that he could get some of the MAGA segment, but he’s already alienated them,” Flanagan said. “He’s already stepping away from them and saying that he’s not going to support president Trump or the MAGA agenda.”
And were that the case, Flanagan appeared to say that it might be preferable.
To her, it might be better to keep enemies in plain sight instead of throwing a snake into the grass of the Republican Senate Caucus, citing defections on important Republican measures by Republicans like McCain, whom Flanagan considers Republicans in name only.
“You need solidarity within the caucus, and that’s where an enemy within is going to cause further problems for our president, for the agenda we have moving forward and for these critical pieces of legislation that we need to have passed,” she said.