If you ask anyone who follows New Jersey Republican politics, they’ll tell you Jack Ciattarelli is the overwhelming frontrunner to win the primary on June 8th.
He has substantial establishment support from Republicans in Trenton and a massive cash advantage over the rest of the field, thanks to qualifying for public matching funds.
By all accounts, Jack has learned from his mistakes in his previous 2017 gubernatorial primary run when he came up short against then-Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.
According to people familiar with the Ciattarelli campaign, Jack saw the thumping Phil Murphy gave Kim Guadagno as a massive vindication of his candidacy. Following Guadagno’s crushing 15 point defeat, Jack immediately moved to launch a three year shadow campaign for a second shot at the Governor’s mansion. Up to this point, it’s been very successful and has him poised to win the nomination without having to spend any precious dollars before the general election campaign against Governor Murphy in November.
However, there is one thorn in Jack Ciattarelli’s side in his vy for the Republican Party nomination -- his views on Former President Donald Trump. Like many establishment Bush-Romney Republican figures in 2015 and 2016, Jack Ciattarelli thought the then-billionaire businessman candidate had zero chance of winning the nomination. As a result, he went on to make extremely negative and candid statements against Donald Trump throughout the 2016 campaign.
In December 2015, Ciattarelli condemned Trump as a “charlatan” who was “out of step with the Party of Lincoln” and embarrassing the nation. Ciattarelli would then go even further, bluntly saying Trump “preys upon our worst instincts and fears” and that “sitting silently and allowing him to embarrass our country is unacceptable. He is not fit to be President of the United States.”
Ciattarelli did not even support Donald Trump after he secured the party nomination and went up against Hillary Clinton in the general election campaign. After a few October surprises in 2016, Ciattarelli made the surprise announcement that he would not vote for President Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
The obvious question to many political observers who are wondering which way the party will move forward is “how can an unabashed never-Trumper can win a Republican primary following four years of Donald Trump in the White House?” The Ciattarelli campaign did not respond to that question and whether or not he stands by his previous anti-Trump comments.
It’s a fascinating question that’s brought many eyeballs across the nation to eagerly watch the New Jersey Republican Primary results on June 8th. Only time will tell if Jack Ciattarelli’s big bet that the party is ready to get rid of Trump pays off or not.