The Republican Party’s biggest vote-getter in New Jersey history, a state lawmaker who just won re-election, a hairstylist from Summit, the GOP mayor of Fredon and a Long Valley native who returned to New Jersey when Covid crushed his budding Big Apple career are all plotting campaigns to challenge a candidate who is favored by the Garden State and Washington political establishments.
Outgoing New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. is one of 32 House candidates to qualify for the first level of a national GOP program that measures the early success of congressional aspirants against a rigid series of benchmarks.
Whether his pedigree and preference among party insiders will be enough to secure a nomination in a competitive Republican primary remains to be seen, since Kean is carrying some heavy baggage.
While former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is mounting another exploratory bid for president that has put him on a collision course with Donald Trump, his one-time ally who the Bridgegate bully’s book describes as what’s wrong with the Republican Party, the field of contenders in central New Jersey grows.
“We can no longer talk about the past and the past elections — no matter where you stand on that issue, no matter where you stand, it is over,” said Christie, in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“Any president, particularly a Republican one, should never be throwing bouquets at a murdering communist dictator in China,” Christie said, referring to Trump’s praise for Xi Jinping. “We should never be telling that person they’re doing something well.”
China’s dictator has a big admirer in Kean’s father, former Governor Thomas H. Kean, who is a board of directors member at the National Committee on United States-China Relations, a group that might be described as “throwing bouquets at a murdering communist dictator.”
Governor Kean could also saddle his son with the burden of explaining New Jersey’s $32.6 billion New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority debt and rising gasoline taxes, now that time has tested the magic scheme for improving the economy.
While economic hardships have compounded since 1984, creating the Transportation Trust Fund eviscerated the budget surplus and diverted to Wall Street tax funds once dedicated to maintaining roads and bridges.
And most New Jersey highways are at a standstill during rush hour.
John Isemann III is a 5th generation New Jerseyan, currently running for Congress in the Republican primary who may hope to capitalize on Kean’s communist connections.
Also in the contest is Assemblyman Erik Peterson, who has been a far more consistent conservative than Kean.