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Brian D. Levine, a former Somerset Freeholder and Franklin Mayor, has formed an exploratory committee to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2021.

Levine filing to run for governor

Former Somerset freeholder enters race as many party leaders align behind Ciattarelli

By Nikita Biryukov, January 15 2021 7:02 pm

Former Somerset County Freeholder and Franklin Township Mayor Brian D. Levine is filing to run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2021.

“I may get it done tonight,” Levine said. “It may take on the weekend, but I’m going file and then start trying to line up the county screenings too.”

Levine spent five years as a councilman in Franklin before becoming Mayor. He held that post for a decade, until 2014. He took to a Somerset County freeholder seat the next year. In November, He lost a bid for a third term in an increasingly blue Somerset County.

He said he would run on ideas while lending focus to the economy and openness in government. When he announced an exploratory for the governorship, he said the state needed to address the pandemic’s secondary effects, like rising domestic violence and a dearth of mental health services.

“I’m not big on platitudes,” he said. “As it goes, I’m going to roll out specifics on how things get done.”

The Republican enters the race as a swath of GOP party leaders align behind former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, another Somerset resident.

On Friday and in the days before, dozens of Republican politicians, including 11 county chairs — from Bergen, Ocean, Cumberland, Atlantic, Somerset, Burlington, Essex, Gloucester, Passaic, Hunterdon and Salem — endorsed Ciattarelli.

Former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt was the contest’s other favorite, but he abruptly dropped his bid on Monday, just days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Perennial candidate Hirsh Singh and businessman Joseph Rudy Rullo are also seeking the party nod.

Those endorsements don’t guarantee a win, but do they afford Ciattarelli a sizeable advantage in upcoming conventions where GOP county committee people will award organizational lines.

“He’s had a start, I’m going in it late,” Levine said. “That doesn’t make it impossible.”

The former freeholder intends to pursue those lines as well. He sent a letter of intent to Ocean County’s Republican screening committee earlier this month. The officials in the GOP stronghold will screen candidates on Feb. 6, a month ahead of their March 6 convention.

The 62-year-old Franklin resident’s outreach to party leaders is still in its nascence. He is beginning to pitch them and said county committee people are soon to follow.

“I want to speak to the rank and file — the committee people — too,” he said. “Because they get to vote.”

Levine in 2009 spent months exploring a gubernatorial bid, appearing at GOP events and speaking with party officials, before deciding not to enter a race between Former. Gov. Chris Christie, Assemblyman Richard Merkt and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.

Note: the law renaming freeholders to 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.

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