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State Republicans prepare for White House support

GOP leaders have conference call with Stepien

By Nikita Biryukov

State Republican leaders are preparing to receive an influx of national support for this year’s congressional campaigns.

In a conference call last week between most of the county Republican committee chairs, the GOP state committee and White House political director Bill Stepien, party heads touched base on the upcoming elections in preparation for support from the White House and the national branch of the GOP.

“I think there is recognition nationally that New Jersey is a targeted state this year, and there’s some very important elections,” said GOP state chairman Doug Steinhardt said. “So, the purpose of the call is to let everyone know that the White House is keeping a close eye on our progress, and we, as a state party, expect to have a really strong partnership with them throughout the campaign cycle.”

While Steinhardt declined to comment on specific instances of support discussed on the call, he said that those watching the state’s competitive races should be prepared for visits, endorsements and resources from national party figures.

“It’s still an evolving process,” Steinhardt said. “I think as the Spring unfolds, we get into the summer, we get into the fall, we’ll see more and more resources roll into the state to enable us all to do our jobs effectively.”

Steinhardt and others on the call, which lasted for roughly 30 minutes, said the discussion centered around a number of races in the state, particularly around races in the second, third and fifth districts.

Races in the seventh district, where incumbent Rep. Leonard Lance will likely face former assistant U.S. secretary of state Tom Malinowski, and the 11th district, where Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s retirement has opened the field to a stable of challengers from both parties, were discussed more briefly, according to several people on the call.

While glossing over the race in the 11th district could be written off as allowing the competitive primary there to run its course, some felt giving Lance’s district the same treatment was a sign of displeasure from the White House.

Lance, like most other members of the New Jersey delegation, voted against Republican healthcare and tax bills put before Congress last year. Only Rep. Tom MacArthur, who will square off with former Obama national security staffer Andy Kim in November, voted to pass both, while Frelinghuysen voted in favor of the healthcare bill.

That explanation didn’t sit well with Steinhardt, who said that the party simply did not think Lance’s seat was in much danger.

“I would suggest to you that that’s more a question of perspective to the extent that we really focused on the open seats and some discussion on taking back the fifth,” Steinhardt said. “I don’t think anybody can read into the dialogue on any other seat as to anything other than, in some instances, the sheer strength of the incumbent from our perspective.”

Still, the call indicates that Republicans are taking the challenges posed by State Sen. Jeff Van Drew in the second district and by Kim in the third seriously

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