Former Somerset County Freeholder and Franklin Township Mayor Brian D. Levine announced today that he was creating an exploratory committee to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2021.
“It is a preliminary analysis for now, but New Jersey needs so much rebuilding, that a patchwork quilt of concepts will not solve the problems; we need bold steps with our residents in mind,” said Levine.
Levine, 62, served as a Franklin councilman from 1998 to 2003, mayor from 2004 to 2014, and as a freeholder from 2015 until today. He lost his bid for re-election to a third term on November 4 in a county that has become increasingly more Democratic in recent years.
He said that ancillary victims of COVID-19 have not been addressed.
“Closed small businesses are in dire straits, domestic violence is up, mental health services are required. As for state agencies, the workers are great, but DMV leaves people frustrated,” Levine stated. “There is so much more to be done.”
If Levine gets in the race, he will join four other announced candidates: former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, also a former Somerset freeholder; former GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt; and businessmen Joseph Rudy Rullo and Hirsh Singh.
Levine said that he wants to bring his credentials as an accountant and finance expert, calling for a Trenton outsider and “not the same old swap-reboot.”
“In the best of times, these last few years, New Jersey is broke,” said Levine. “Now New Jersey is destitute with no survival plans.”
He pointed to a need for financial incentives for businesses “that are being used as unpaid tax collectors,” New Jerseyans who can’t afford health insurance, and high tuition rates for state colleges and universities.
“I want civil discourse with the other candidates, I want ideas to flow amongst all, I want solutions to be discussed, I want New Jersey to be the stellar place it can be. Some run for office because they want to hold the office; I will run to create a better life for our residents,” Levine said. “If I run, it will be a grass roots campaign. Just like I was ‘The People’s Mayor,’ I seek to be ‘The People’s Governor’ if I run and succeed.”
Levine explored running for governor in 2009 and spent months appearing at GOP events, but eventually opted against entering the race against former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, and Assemblyman Richard Merkt after his petitions were rejected. He endorsed Christie.
Editor’s note: the law replacing freeholders with county commissioners was not retroactive. Accordingly, the New Jersey Globe will refer to anyone who previously held the post of freeholder prior to the effective date of the law as former freeholders since they never held the post of county commissioner.