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Among N.J. GOP primary voters, few recognize names of four top Republican officials, poll shows

Bramnick, Hugin, Steinhardt and Testa largely unknown statewide, National Public Affairs polls shows

By David Wildstein, March 01 2023 5:08 am

Left to right: Jon Bramnick, Bob Hugin, Doug Steinhardt, and Michael Testa, Jr.

Four prominent Republicans from New Jersey, all potential statewide candidates, have surprisingly low name recognition among GOP primary voters in a statewide poll conducted this month by National Public Affairs, a Republican firm.

Roughly 80% of Republicans who voted in either the 2021 or 2022 primary have never heard of three state senators, Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), Doug Steinhardt (R-Lopatcong), and Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland).

And Republican State Chairman Bob Hugin, who spent more than $36 million of his own money running for the U.S. Senate less than five years ago, has practically no residual name recognition among voters of his party, the poll shows.

But snapshots of the poll, released by National Public Affairs exclusively to the New Jersey Globe, did not include voter opinions of two other likely candidates for the 2025 Republican nomination for Governor, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough) and radio talk show host Bill Spadea.

Bramnick, a freshman state senator who spent eleven years as the Assembly Minority Leader, has favorables of 10% and unfavorables of 10%; 80% of Republicans either never heard of him or had no opinion of him.

Favorables for Steinhardt, a former GOP state chairman and gubernatorial candidate who won a special election for State Senate last December, are at 11%-8%, with 82% of Republicans saying he was unfamiliar to them.

A two-term state senator from South Jersey, Testa’s favorable rating is at 16%-6%; 78% of Republicans don’t know who he is or has no opinion of him.

Name ID for Hugin is virtually the same as Testa: 15% favorable and 8% unfavorable, with 78% unaware of him.   That represents a sharp fall from a Quinnipiac University Poll released two weeks before the 2018 election that put Hugin’s favorables among Republicans at 83%-4%, with 96% of Republicans saying they were voting for him against the Democratic incumbent, Bob Menendez.

In Monmouth and Ocean counties, where 24% of the votes in the 2021 gubernatorial primary were cast, Bramnick is upside-down (10%-17%), Hugin is at 19%-8%, Steinhardt is at 13%-12%, and Testa is at 17%-8%.

Testa does best in his political base of South Jersey, where his favorables in the seven counties is at 28%-6%.  But 47% of Republicans in the region have never heard of him, and 19% have no opinion.  Testa represents Cape May and parts of Cumberland and Atlantic, but Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Salem.

Still, Testa is better known in South Jersey than Bramnick (5%-8%), Hugin (14%-4%), or Steinhardt (9%-4%).

In Central Jersey, which is defined in the poll as Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties, favorables for Bramnick (14%-9%), Hugin (17%-9%), and Steinhardt (12%-8%) are stronger than Testa (8%-8%).    Bramnick represents parts of Somerset and Union – part of Middlesex is in his new legislative district – and Steinhardt has parts of Hunterdon and Somerset.

But 52% of Republicans in Central Jersey have never heard of Bramnick, and 26% have no opinion of him.   Six-in-ten (62%) have never heard of Steinhardt, while 18% have no opinion; 53% don’t know Hugin, and his name is unfamiliar to 21% of Republicans.  Testa is the least known of the four in that region of the state: 84% don’t know who he is.

In North Jersey – Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren – Bramnick has favorables of 12%-7% (54% don’t know him, and 27% have no opinion of him).  Hugin’s favorables are 14%-8% (46% don’t recognize his name, and 31% don’t have an opinion of him.  Favorables for Steinhardt in North Jersey are at 12%-6%, with 57% unaware of him and 26% saying they have no opinion of him.    For Testa, favorables in the northern part of the state are at 13%-4%; those who have never heard him (51%) or are unfamiliar with him (33%) are roughly the same as Bramnick and Steinhardt.

National Public Affairs is run by Bill Stepien, a former White House political director who managed Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.  Among his clients in 2022 was Rep. Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming Republican who ousted Rep. Liz Cheney in the Republican primary by more than 37 percentage points.   The team also includes Tom Bonfonti, a former executive director of the Ocean County Republican organization.

The National Public Affairs poll was conducted between February 6-9 and had a sample size of 729 Republicans who voted in either the 2021 or 2022 primary elections, with a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.   The margin of error for the regional breakdowns will be higher.

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