Assuming Jack Ciattarelli wins the Republican nomination for governor, his first big decision will be picking a running mate.
That won’t necessarily happen immediately – the deadline to select a candidate for Lt. Governor is 30 days after the certification of the winner of the primary election – but it’s unlikely that Ciattarelli will wait until the end of July to declare his choice.
To be clear, Ciattarelli has dropped no hints about his pick. He hasn’t begun formally vetting candidates. He hasn’t designated anyone to run the process. The presumptive nominee won’t drop any hints and has refused to rule out anyone.
While there is no data suggesting that voters make their pick based on the Lt. Governor candidate, a candidate could make a difference in a close race. In 2009, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) clearly helped Gov. Jon Corzine eke out a 5,950-vote plurality in Bergen County.
The New Jersey Globe spoke with more than two dozen Republican leaders, strategists and activists to discuss potential Ciattarelli running mates. Some names came from them, and some were presented to them for discussion purposes.
Here’s a consensus short list that Ciattarelli can start with – five safe establishment choices, and four from outside the box.
Former State Sen. Diane Allen
A former six-term state senator from Burlington County, Diane Allen had some magic going for her as a candidate in a Democratic-leaning district for 22 years and could bring some gravitas to the ticket. Well-known as a television news anchor for Philadelphia network affiliates, she’s run statewide (for U.S. Senate in 2002) and has her name on some landmark legislation. If Allen, 73, were interested in running for office again – or serving in office again – this could be an easy choice for Ciattarelli.
Senate Minority Conference Leader Kristin Corrado
Kristin Corrado, 55, was the only Republican woman in the New Jersey Senate until six weeks ago, and her base in heavily Democratic Passaic County – she’s won two countywide races there for county clerk – and in Bergen, Essex and Morris makes her a logical choice for Lt. Governor. The Totowa lawyer has strong relationships on the Democratic side and hasn’t flinched as a critic of Murphy of a multitude of issues. But like Allen, it’s not clear if she wants the job.
Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon
Ciattarelli needs a massive vote out of Monmouth, where Christine Hanlon is enormously popular. In 2020, she was re-elected county clerk with 60% of the vote, outpolling Donald Trump by 26,521 votes. The 52-year-old former prosecutor is fiercely partisan, and while her resume may resemble that of the last Republican Lt. Governor, Monmouth Republicans say she is much more likeable.
Assemblyman Ryan Peters
The 39-year-old attorney is not seeking re-election to a third term in the State Assembly, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t answer a call to service if Ciattarelli asked him. The U.S. Naval Academy graduate has spent the last 17 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL and is the commander of his Navy Reserve team. A former Burlington freeholder, he’s won two tough campaigns in the politically competitive.
Assembly Minority Conference Leader Nancy Munoz
Nancy Munoz might have the perfect story for the times: a registered nurse and mother of five from Summit, she went to the State Assembly seat in 2009 following the unexpected death of her husband. While sometimes overshadowed by her running mates – the Senate Minority Leader and the Assembly Minority Leader – she’s now a veteran seven-term lawmaker who served with Ciattarelli in the legislature for six years. During the pandemic, the 66-year-old Munoz stepped up as a volunteer nurse – she showed up as an early front line health care worker and now administers vaccines – and when there was a personal protection equipment shortage, she made masks on her sewing machine.
A 50-year-old financial services executive and Army Reserve captain, Tony Ghee made his first run for office in 2018 as a candidate for Rodney Frelinghuysen’s open seat but lost the GOP primary to Jay Webber. Ghee has a compelling story: raised by a single mother with his father in prison, he received a law degree from Howard University and a master’s degree in securities and financial regulation from Georgetown Law. He worked for a New York firm before moving on to a hedge fund where he manages more than a billion dollars in assets. He also serves in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.
A U.S. Army veteran who served in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Kim-Hagemann became the first woman to serve as State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. A former teacher, the 58-year-old Southern Ocean County resident and political outsider could give Ciattarelli a running mate who could drive the issue of veterans home deaths during the pandemic.
Laura Overdeck could be a game changer for Ciattarelli, especially if she were willing to allow the GOP ticket to skip public financing and self-fund the race as the candidate for Lt. Governor. The wife of a hedge fund manager — Forbes estimated his net worth at $6.5 billion – Overdeck comes to the table with her own qualifications: she was valedictorian at Westfield High School, received a degree in astrophysical science from Princeton, and an MBA from Wharton. The 51-year-old mother of three founded Bedtime Math, a non-profit group that helps parents bring recreational math to their children. She’s become increasingly active in politics as a founder of Women for a Stronger New Jersey, a super PAC that is helping to increase the number of Republican women holding public office in New Jersey. Republicans might like her as Commissioner of Education.
The president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association for nearly seven years, Siekerka has been a staunch critic of the Murphy administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and it’s impact on small businesses. The 56-year-old Robbinsville resident has government experience: she served as Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Protection in the Christie administration. Before that, she ran the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, was the senior counsel at the Automobile Association of America and was a partner at a Mercer County law firm.