By Stephen Neukam
Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli continued his campaign for the New Jersey governorship at Rider, painting the state as losing ground to regional foes and offering tax reform proposals as his prescription for the maladies, at a virtual event hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics on March 9.
Ciattarelli is running in a largely uncontested primary for the state’s GOP nomination, leaving him with plenty of time and energy to focus on drawing a distinction between himself and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who is seeking reelection. The GOP primary is on June 8.
The candidate also took aim at Murphy’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and highlighted his own ability to work with both sides of the aisle, positioning himself in what plans to be a nearly year-long campaign before the election in November.
At the event that was attended by 85 students and community members, Ciattarelli focused largely on issues that were of importance to younger voters. He said that the state needed to be more attractive for young people so they would not leave after college. To cure that, the candidate highlighted his plans to cut the state’s tax rates and expand low-income housing to foster opportunity and affordability.
“I can [turn the economy around] with some very significant reforms to our tax code,” said Ciattarelli. “Delaware has the most attractive bylaws for corporate governance … I think New Jersey should adopt Delaware’s bylaws … I think we should cut our corporate tax rate, which is the highest in the nation, in half.”
Like most Republicans, Ciattarelli’s campaign is clouded by the sharp schism that has divided the party since the end of former President Donald Trump’s time in office. Ciattarelli, who said he was not a “Trump Republican,” has attempted to balance the need to appeal to the former firebrand president’s supporters and distancing himself from the divisiveness of far-right rhetoric and policy.
Rebranding the party is not a challenge that Ciattarelli is running from. Aside from delivering a GOP win for the governorship and flipping the state legislature, he said one of his goals is to reassert the Republican party in New Jersey. The last time the state had a Republican governor was under Chris Christie in 2018, who was the first Republican to hold the office since 2002.
“I’m excited about the campaign because it provides an opportunity to reestablish the Republican brand,” said Ciattarelli.
Besides the policy differences that separate the party in the state, with Ciattarelli saying he favors a “common sense conservative approach,” he highlighted one issue that unites all Republicans in the state — the goal of making Murphy a one-term governor.
Senior political science major Matthew Schantin, a registered Democrat, said that Ciattarelli’s common sense approach appealed to him but was not in favor of his tax proposals.
“I thought he was relatively straightforward and had some common sense ideas,” said Schantin. “Unfortunately he seems focused on dismantling Murphy’s progress and providing tax cuts across the board, including for major corporations.”
Ciattarelli blasted Murphy’s handling of the pandemic, particularly the vaccine rollout and the closing of public schools. However, in recent weeks, GOP governors across the country have started to drastically roll back virus restrictions, moves that Ciattarelli does not support.
“I think it’s a little too soon to just start ignoring some of the protocols that are critical to stopping the spread of the disease,” said Ciattarelli. “I think we should play it safe with regard to the masks.”
While the candidate stressed continuing protocols for safety, he also said he wants to open up the economy, an approach that he said will “save lives and livelihoods.”
The event showed a candidate in full campaign mode, attempting to draw distinctions between himself and his opponent before this year’s election.
Caption: Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli said he was excited about his campaign for governor because it “provides an opportunity to reestablish the Republican brand.”