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Johnny Bravo, left, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for New Jersey State Assembly

Johnny Bravo wants to be an assemblyman

Democrat shares name with iconic Cartoon Network character

By Nikita Biryukov, March 26 2019 4:45 pm

Hey foxy mama, Johnny Bravo’s running for Assembly.

Evesham Democrat John “Johnny” Bravo is hoping that voters’ fond memories of the beloved Cartoon Network character whose name Bravo shares will propel him ahead of party-backed candidates Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale.

“It’s better name recognition,” Bravo said. “I think that really the key is name recognition, because how much name recognition can you get if you’re a first-time candidate in a large area of population.”

Bravo ran for the Evesham town council in 2016. He won 9,141 votes, falling about 600 votes shy of unseating incumbent councilman Robert DiEnna.

That year, he ran as “John Bravo.”

“I didn’t think anything of it, but as a matter of fact, my friends and family call me Johnny. They always have,” Bravo said. “My son, when I told him what I wanted to do, he said ‘dad, run as Johnny Bravo because people will remember it better.’”

Despite its accolades, there’s some question about how much an association with an animated series that ran between 1997 and 2004 will benefit Bravo.

It is possible that voters — male voters in particular — in their late 20s and early 30s still hold a soft spot for the cartoon character, Rider University’s Rebovich Institute director Micah Rasmussen said, but that soft spot won’t be enough to carry a candidacy.

“I think name recognition always helps, but that’s only the first foot in the door. That gets you maybe a further look or maybe some attention, but you’re going to have to have a campaign to back that up,” Rasmussen said. “Could it conceivably help him or get him a second look or have voters be willing to hear what he has to say? Yeah, but does it transcend into votes all by itself? No, probably not. There’s no chance of anybody confusing him with a cartoon figure.”

So far, Bravo is the only candidate in the eighth legislative district to have filed his nominating petitions.

The deadline for filing is 4 p.m. April 1.

The district will host one of the year’s closest and most-watched elections. Republican incumbent Assemblymen Ryan Peters and Joe Howarth are defending their seats in the wake of State Sen. Dawn Addiego’s defection to the Democratic party.

The Burlington County Republican Committee backed Peters’ re-election bid Saturday but dropped Howarth over a belief that he attempted to join Addiego on the other side of the aisle. Republicans instead backed long-time Sheriff Jean Stanfield, who in February told the New Jersey Globe she would retire on May 1, months before the end of her term.

Howarth is running off the line.

Bravo’s petitions contained 116 signatures, which may be a low enough number to garner a challenge from fellow Democrats.

The retired U.S. Department of Defense chemical engineer said the possibility of a challenge had crossed his mind.

“I did think about it and maybe naively I thought ‘would other Democrats challenge me on this?’ I thought 116 would be sufficient to cover any challenge, and I was even thinking about going out and getting another 10 or 20 to cover that,” Bravo said. “I haven’t done it so far, and if I have anyone prodding me to go out more, I will.”

A source familiar with Burlington County’s Democratic politics told the New Jersey Globe that a challenge to Bravo’s petitions was a prospect LaPlaca and Natale should explore.

But, the source said, county Democrats aren’t worried about Bravo’s candidacy and believe LaPlaca and Natale might benefit from using the primary as a sort of campaign finishing school.

“It’s very clear to those of us in the county that this isn’t a serious primary,” the source said. “That being said, I think there could be some merit to having to run a quasi, air-quote, race during the primary cycle. You can work some kinks out. You can practice some of your things in your message, but I don’t think they’re particularly worried about Mr. Bravo, nor should they be.”

Cartoon Network did not respond to a request for comment.

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