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State Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Steinhardt goes after Ciattarelli on guns

Former GOP state chairman seeks to ding opponent’s conservative credentials

By Nikita Biryukov, December 22 2020 11:40 am

Former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt sought to ding rival GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli’s conservative credentials with an attack over his record on gun control — and his ability to hold a firearm — Tuesday.

“Jack, your shooting stance is about as cockeyed as your Second Amendment record,” Steinhardt said, lampooning his primary opponent’s firing posture at a shooting competition in Port Republic. “I know you were previously rejected by the NRA, and if you want their support, you’re going to have to at least look like you’ve held a gun before.”

The National Rifle Association denied Ciattarelli an endorsement during his 2015 Assembly re-election bid. He then had a 71% rating from the pro-gun group, though that number dropped to 58% in an updated rating the NRA released earlier this month.

The former 16th-district Assemblyman ran as an unabashedly pro-gun candidate during his 2017 gubernatorial bid, and his voting record on the issue shows opposition to bills reducing maximum magazine capacities and background checks for firearm purchases.

But he sponsored a bill to create a statewide gun buyback program in 2014 and was one of four Assembly Republicans who joined a Democratic bid to override former Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill that would have made it more difficult to obtain firearm permits for people with mental health records.

“I know you have a history of turning your back on the legal gun community, so you’ll have to fix your stance if you want to stand with me and the rest of New Jersey’s legal gun owners against Phil Murphy’s relentless attacks on the Second Amendment,” Steinhardt said.

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), one of the chamber’s most conservative members, also backed the veto override attempt.

Ciattarelli’s campaign sought to turn the attack into one of their own, hammering Steinhardt over contributions to Leadership PAC for Better Government, a continuing PAC, that supports the Warren County Republican Committee, which Steinhardt chairs.

The Bergen Record on Tuesday reported the PAC, funded largely by donations from Steinhardt allies, put $220,000 behind supporting Warren Republicans and local candidates and committees in the county, where some contributors hold lucrative municipal contracts.

“Jack supports the Second Amendment and, as Governor, will defend the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” Ciattarelli campaign manager Eric Arpert said. “It’s no surprise that this latest distortion comes the same morning that New Jersey Republicans are learning more about Steinhardt’s years of trading campaign contributions and pocketing millions in taxpayer dollars with his Democrat law partners like Governor Jim Florio. Steinhardt will do anything to prevent us from seeing him for what he is: the swamp.”

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