With eight Republican county chairs now publicly in support of Jack Ciattarelli for governor, there is now a clear move to block any new candidates from entering the race by clearing the field for the former Somerset County assemblyman.
The race changed dramatically on Monday evening with the surprise announcement that former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt was dropping out of the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
“Everyone I have spoken with now recognizes that Jack Ciattarelli is going to be our nominee,” said Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis. “We should get behind Jack now to give him every advantage going into the fall.”
Davis, an early Ciattarelli supporter, says that Republicans “just can’t afford to start this election after the primary in June.”
“We need to get going now,” Davis said in an email to his fellow GOP county chairs obtained by the New Jersey Globe. “We can put our party in the best position to beat Murphy by coalescing behind Jack as chairs of our county organizations. It will benefit us down-ticket and avoid needless spending against fellow Republicans in the primary.
In addition to Davis, Ciattarelli had previously won endorsements from two other county chairs: Sean Earlen in Burlington and Tim Howes in Somerset. Since Steinhardt’s exit, county chairs in Essex, Passaic, Gloucester, Salem and Ocean have endorsed Ciattarelli.
Davis wants Republicans to shift into general election mode to increase their chances of ousting the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Phil Murphy.
“This state is a mess with Murphy, and we all know why,” he said. “Just look at the how poorly vaccine distributions are behind handled. Not to mention double-digit unemployment and callous disregard for our hard-working restaurant workers who just want to work.
With Steinhardt out, Ciattarelli now faces businessman Joseph Rudy Rullo and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh, an Atlantic County resident.
Another possible candidate, former Franklin Mayor Brian D. Levine, has promised to decide if he’ll run for governor this week.
“It’s time we as chairs show some leadership to change course from recent statewide losses,” said Davis. “Let’s get a meeting together – even if its online – to endorse Jack and get the 2021 campaign started.”