New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, one of Gov. Phil Murphy’s fiercest critics for the last three years, has decided to seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2021, filing incorporation papers with the state to establish a campaign committee on Wednesday evening.
A formal announcement that Steinhardt will seek to challenge Murphy is imminent, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Steinhardt will also step down from his post as GOP state chairman in order to run for governor. A notice of a regular quarterly meeting is going out today and he will announce his resignation at that time.
Steinhardt’s entrance into the race pits him in a primary fight with former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R—Hillsborough).
A third potential contender, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), announced on Wednesday that he would not run for governor and instead seek re-election to the legislature.
Steinhardt will run as the unabashed conservative in the Republican primary.
“It’s good to have a proven conservative in the Republican primary for Governor. I believe competition is a good thing. Doug is pro-Life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-President Trump,” said State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), the Cumberland County GOP Chairman. “He has also been one of the leading voices in holding Phil Murphy accountable for his colossal failures.”
The top strategist for the Steinhardt for Governor campaign is expected to be Bill Stepien, a New Jersey native who managed Donald Trump’s near-re-election win in the 2020 presidential race.
Stepien was the campaign manager for the last two GOP statewide victories, serving as Chris Christie’s campaign manager in his 2009 defeat of Gov. Jon Corzine, and again in 2013 as the campaign manager for Christie’s landslide re-election win.
An Eagle Scout and former college football player, Steinhardt launched his political career in 1999 at age 31 when he was elected mayor of Lopatcong.
He ousted Democratic incumbent William Baker by 12 votes. In his 2002 re-election campaign, Steinhardt won 80% in a rematch against Baker.
The 52-year-old Steinhardt was re-elected mayor three more times without opposition, retiring in 2014. He has served as Warren County Republican Chairman since 2004.
“We need a real conservative who will unite our base if we are going to defeat Phil Murphy and his public sector union cronies,” said Warren County Freeholder Jim Kern. “I am happy that a leader like Doug Steinhardt is getting in this race and I look forward to supporting him.”
Steinhardt has set a path as a partisan Republican, but still maintains ties to prominent New Jersey Democrats.
He’s a partner at Florio Perrucci, a major New Jersey law firm whose partners include former Democratic Gov. Jim Florio, Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr., former Warren County Democratic Chairman Michael Perrucci, and former East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor.
Steinhardt has won praise for rebuilding the New Jersey GOP after losing four congressional seats in the 2018 mid-term elections.
He played a major role in Testa’s 2019 Senate race, ousting incumbent State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak (D-Middle) and picking up two Assembly seats in the 1st legislative district.
This year, Steinhardt helped clear the filed for Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) to win the Republican nomination in New Jersey’s 2nd district after he switched parties and won the endorsement of President Donald Trump.
“Doug Steinhardt is a leader for the Republican Party in New Jersey. No other State Chair has made their way to our corner of the state as often as Doug,” said Salem County GOP Chair Linda DuBois. “With his help, we flipped control of the County in 2018 and continued to deliver conservative, good government to the people of Salem County.”
Perennial candidate Hirsh Singh has also entered the race for governor.