Assembly candidates Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman don’t expect Gov. Chris Christie to be much of a campaign issue in their bid to oust Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramncik (R-Westfield) and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit).
“We’re still living with some of the policies that Christie either enacted or he vetoed and we don’t have because he didn’t allow those to go through and we didn’t have enough votes in the Assembly to override vetoes on issues,” Gunderman said.
Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law an bill effectively banning almost all types of abortion, including in cases of rape and incest.
The measure’s supporters expect it to be invalidated by already-announced legal challenges but hope that the law will eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and overturn Roe V. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Other southern states have followed suit, passing their own restrictive abortion bills.
Despite insistence that he wasn’t a campaign issue, Christie came up during the candidates’ speeches at their campaign launch Sunday.
“Beating the incumbents is not going to be easy. They’re well-funded, and for the most part, they’re pretty well liked,” Mandelblatt said. “But, they have a record. They stood idly by while Chris Christie killed the ARC tunnel, and we are paying the price for that. They are A-rated by the NRA. Despite one of them being a nurse, they vote time and again to deny women access to healthcare.”
Still, they stressed that the focus was not on Christie but on the policies he pushed with the help of Republican lawmakers like Bramnick and Munoz.
Christie was deeply unpopular when he left office, but when voters go to the polls in November Gov. Phil Murphy will have been the state’s executive for nearly two years.
It remains to be seen whether voters will remember their animus towards the former governor or whether they’ll have found a new outlet for any discontent they may harbor.
Mandelblatt and Gunderman said they do think the spate of anti-abortion bills could be a driver in the year’s campaign.
“I think it’s making people realize how important state elections are. it used to be that people only paid attention to presidential elections. Last year, we educated people on how important it was to flip the House, because while they were not going to be able to get any real legislation passed because of everything else going on there, it’s at least a hard stop on some of this legislation.”