Friday, January 6, 2017

New Jersey Governor's Race in 2017

2017 will have crucial elections coming up, too, even though not nearly as many, which included the highest-profile Presidential election, among others.

The Governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia will be a point of heated contention this year.

Chris Christie is termed out. He was a rock star for two or three years. Then came BridgeGate.

And then came the waffling on key issues. He did nothing to help the Republican Party of New Jersey.

In fact, during his tenure as Governor, Republicans lost seats in the state legislature.

So, who's going to clean up the mess left by Christie?

Perhaps a comedian who used to star on Saturday Night Live?

Governor Joe Piscopo? Comedian eyes run in New Jersey

Comedian Joe Piscopo is contemplating running for Governor in New Jersey

Joe Piscopo's Frank Sinatra impression, made famous from his days on "Saturday Night Live," has gotten an update.

It's no longer "New York, New York," but "NJ, NJ," the actor, standup comic and potential 2017 Republican candidate for governor is now crooning.

Interesting. Republicans have had some success with celebrity candidates running for higher office. Will this move blow up in their face they way it did for California voters when they supported Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Piscopo performed the updated song — lyrics included "my New York and Philly blues are melting away" — at a recent charity event for the Boys and Girls Club in New Jersey, where his flirtation with running for governor to succeed incumbent Republican Chris Christie when his term ends in 2018 is out in the open.

It's no joke, he said.

Piscopo, 65, gained fame as a member of the "SNL" cast, impersonating fellow Jersey native Sinatra as well as late-night host Dave Letterman.

Yes, the David Letterman impressions were particularly amusing. I preferred watching Piscopo play Letterman than Letterman play ... himself.

He also appeared in films and hosts a political talk radio show in New York and is a spokesman for the Boys and Girls Club.He says he would likely run as a Republican in 2017, but isn't ruling out jumping in as an independent after the June 6 primary.

"I'm seriously looking at it," he said, promising to make a decision by January. "I love the people. I love the state. I know what has to be done."

Piscopo has never campaigned for or held office, but considered running in 2004. What's different now? He said he feels emboldened by the against-all-odds victory of President-elect Donald Trump, whom he spoke for recently at a Florida rally.

WOW! The SNL alum supported Trump. That's a good start. Perhaps Trump would return the favor and help elected wannabe Sinatra to take away the little-Democratic blues.

What could the comedian bring to the state of New Jersey which Christie has failed to bring?

If Piscopo ran, it could ratchet up the national attention on next year's contest and could also be a significant boost to Republicans who are in rough shape, thanks to Christie's record-low approval ratings."

Why else is Christie unpopular?

He has dodged a record number of records reuest.
Crime is up
Taxes are up.
People are leaving the state, still (I knew some of them who had moved out to Torrance, California, even though this is another deep blue state).

Can Piscopo raise the money? Does he have enough name ID to fight for the Governor's mansion?

Piscopo would be joining a field that includes Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers (an adviser to Trump's campaign), and possibly Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who appeared alongside Piscopo at the charity event and joked that they could run as a ticket, is also considering a bid.

Asm. Jack Ciatrelli

Locally elected officials do not make the strongest candidates for statewide office. Then again, New Jersey is smal enough (especially compared to California). Anything is possible.

On the Democratic side, Phil Murphy, a wealthy, one-time Goldman Sachs executive and Obama administration diplomat, is in strong position. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who co-chaired the Legislature's investigation into the 2013 George Washington Bridge scandal, is also running.

So, there is a somewhat famous comedian, an assemblyman, and a commissioner.

Democrats have a Wall Street type ready to run with lots of money. Is there any hope for the Garden State?

It may be hard to fathom after such a wild and grueling 2016 presidential campaign, but it's now primary season in New Jersey and the race to succeed Governor Christie is about to gain momentum.

The Democratic primary was expected to be a brawl between the north and south. But suddenly it instead offers the prospect for an upset similar to the party's nomination battle this year for president, with a Bernie Sanders-supporting legislator seeking to defeat a moneyed favorite with ties to President Barack Obama. And no one quite knows yet how the Republican primary for governor is going to shape up, except that whoever ultimately wins faces long odds in retaining control of the executive branch.

How interesting. The same Big Money vs. grassroots dynamic is playing out in New Jersey. Will this give a famous Republican with strong backing and populist appeal the necessary lift to compete and control the Trenton governor's mansion?

Not only is Christie facing historically low poll ratings, but not since Alfred Driscoll succeeded Walter Edge in 1947 has a Republican been elected to replace a Republican governor in New Jersey, a dubious historical marker for this race. Before David Wildstein was known as the admitted felon who devised the George Washington Bridge lane closures that derailed Christie's political career, he went by the online pseudonym Wally Edge in homage to the 36th governor.

On top of all that, reliably blue New Jersey has become even more Democratic since Christie, a Republican, edged out the incumbent, Jon Corzine, for governor in 2009. Since that race, the Democratic Party has added 310,000 registered voters to the rolls, more than double what the GOP has done.

California has the same problem. Thanks a lot Governor. I am so tired of these statewide officials who think about themselves and do nothing to expand the brand as well as engage the base. What were all those townhalls for, anyway? Just for him to have TV time?

How many can still remember when Christie was the Keynote Speaker right behind Mitt Romney at the 2012 RNC Convention? I have not forgotten. Just as he did in 2015 and then the first two months of 2016, Christie talked up pension and entitlement reform.

How much of it have we seen in New Jersey, though? The governor promised a Fox News anchor that the public workers of the state would thank him for the reforms which had put in place.

But is there a New Jersey miracle?

At the center of it all in 2017 is likely to be the same singular force who has commanded New Jersey's attention for the past seven years: Christie.

He is so unpopular now. Incredible.

Other reasons why Christie sucks to most New Jersey voters:
  • Bridge-gate 
  • Hurricane Sandy - Parts of the New jersey Shore are still in ruins.
  • He spends too much time out of the state. Christie served as the Chairman for the Republican Governors Association, which helped Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (and perhaps Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker) to win in their deep blue states.Kudos are in order. But Christie needed to take care of his state, too, and that has not happened.
  • The state's credit rating is plummeting. He was supposed to fix the economic plight in the state. That has not happened.
 So much for the Jersey miracle.

Indeed, the declared Republicans — a small field —  have either distanced themselves from Christie or attached themselves to Donald Trump, whose unorthodox and controversial candidacy led him to victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Joseph Rullo, a businessman from Ocean County, asks voters on his website to elect him to "Make NJ Great Again," a variation of Trump's campaign slogan, while Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers said in announcing his own campaign last week that "what we have to do is we have to do is bring the power back to the people, as Donald Trump has."

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, from Somerset County, is running as a Republican antidote to Christie. Unlike most of his colleagues in the Legislature, Ciattarelli has voted several times to override Christie's vetoes and called for him to resign. "We desperately need public servants who are solutions oriented, not politically motivated," Ciattarelli says on his website.

We talked about Piscopo and Republican members of the state assembly.

There is another candidate, a statewide Republican official, albeit with little power and a lot of connections to Christie:

Kim Guadagno
The most-watched Republican yet to announce is Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who, after years of quietly working in Christie's shadow, has recently opposed him publicly on policy and political issues. She said she is taking the holidays to decide whether she will run for governor. Her entry in the race would make her the party favorite for the nomination, but seven years at the side of Christie will do her few favors with an electorate overwhelmingly against him.

Is there anything that Christie is willing to do to help his team? Remember that he did very little before. He spent more time coddling other Democrats and fighting for the widespread endorsements of the opposing party.

What ever happened to team building? Anyone?

Christie has tried to scare the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups not to play nice and elected a Democratic governor. But what more can they hope for if the electorate is against the Republican in Trenton? Their best bet right now is a pro-business Democrat (if such a creature exists).

The New Jersey Governor's race is not looking too good right now.

The best that Republicans can hope for is that the Governor's race in Virginia works out in their favor after Terry McAuliffe (thankfully) steps down because of term limits in the Old Dominion.

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