A new Super PAC has close ties to Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt and signals a big step toward Steinhardt’s anticipated bid for governor in 2021.
The Lead Right New Jersey PAC is a play off one of Steinhardt’s sayings.
Serving on the super PAC board is former White House Political Director Bill Stepien, a prominent New Jersey Republican strategist. Stepien’s involvement suggests that he will be involved in Steinhardt’s bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination next year.
The move is familiar: in 2016, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno formed a 501(c)4 non-profit group to boost her 2017 campaign for governor. Stepien served as executive director of that organization before leaving to join Donald Trump’s campaign.
The other names on the board are also full of politically relevant smoke signals: newly-elected State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland); former Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Readington); IBEW Local 102 business manager Pat Delle Cava; and former Lopatcong council president Lori Ciesla.
Testa is the Cumberland County Republican Chairman and Steinhardt played a major role in the campaign that ousted incumbent Bob Andrzejczak (D-Middle) in a 2019 special election for Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s old seat.
The move at least gives the appearance that Testa will back Steinhardt for governor.
Simon represented the 16th legislative district and was the running mate of former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough), who will formally announce his gubernatorial bid on Tuesday. Ciesla is a Steinhardt ally who served as Warren County GOP treasurer. Steinhardt is the Warren County Republican chairman.
Next year’s gubernatorial race appears to be quickly taking shape. In addition to Ciattarelli’s announcement, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said on Friday that he was “very, very interested” in running for governor and called many county chairs to let them know that.