Bramnick vs. Sweeney: The politics of competing plans

Good for Jim Florio… at least he remembers who he is.

When asked whether or not he would endorse law partner Doug Steinhardt for Governor, the former Governor put it very simply:  “He’s not the right party as far as I’m concerned.  I would not vote for him.  I’m a Democratic voter.”

Doug is the Chairman of the Republican State Committee.  The two are partners at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli.  This insight came courtesy of that doyen of bloggers… David Wildstein. 

But hey, Florio gets it.  Party means something.

It is the job of the leader of every legislative party caucus – the Speaker, the Senate President, and the minority leaders – to defend and expand their caucus at the expense of the other side.  Those are the rules.  It is first and foremost.  We all understand this.

Last week, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick rolled out his plan for addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis.  It was a direct appeal to elect more Republicans to the Assembly and centered on what they would do if elected.

Bramnick did exactly what he needed to do.  After pointing out the fiscal evils perpetrated by legislative Democrats, Bramnick lays out three solid policy positions that points New Jersey Republicans in the direction of what we should be for

(1) Cap State Spending at 2% (just like local government spending is capped).

(2) Cut the State Income Tax by 10% (make NJ more competitive w. other states).

(3) Full Deduction of Property Taxes on the State Income Tax (a move that takes the property tax issue away from Democrats like Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, and Josh Gottheimer).

In a political sense, the Assembly Republican Leader’s plan does not demonize any organized, well-funded interest groups – it simply starves government for the benefit of taxpayers.  Bramnick makes war on spending, not people.  And that is good politics.    

Bramnick avoids the mistake made in 2015 by then Governor Chris Christie and his Republican Party.  Christie’s pension/health benefits commission called for many changes but he went further and directly confronted the unions and their members, demonizing them in the process.  Christie inadvertently created well-organized, well-financed cells of opposition in every Republican district in the state. 

Like this year, 2015 was a low-turnout election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket.  Public employee unions targeted Republicans and Democrat super PACs – including those controlled by George Norcross – poured money into the campaigns of Democrat challengers.  Republicans lost four seats – four friends by the names of Donna, Caroline, Mary Pat, and Sam.

Yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his “bi-partisan” plan that targets many of the same people that Governor Christie pissed off in 2015.  It should be noted that Sweeney’s plan was formally rolled out after the filing deadline for the Democrat primary.  Unfortunately for Republicans… it is some months until the November election.

This is not about the merits of the “bi-partisan plan” but rather, it is about the politics and timing of the plan.   

Are Republicans in danger of repeating 2015 again? 

Will the super PACS’s controlled by Sweeney allies like George Norcross back up every Republican legislator on the ballot this year?  Or will they stay true to form and support their Democrat challengers?  Will the Republicans on the ballot this year end up getting it from both ends?

This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.

Hugin should think before hurting the GOP any further

Bob Hugin’s campaign for the United States Senate was a disaster.  Everyone associated with it should be embarrassed, should wear the scarlet letter “L” as an external sign of their shame and contrition.

But there will be no contrition because these are people too proud to admit that their “vision” was flawed, that they outspent an extraordinarily flawed incumbent three to one and still lost badly.  Hugin lost to Bob Menendez, a Democrat incumbent so flawed that one in three Democrat primary voters rejected him.

What’s worse is that the Hugin campaign was deliberately designed to suppress traditional Republican turnout while enormous amounts were spent to create a surge amongst “soft” Democrats and Democrat leaners who had soured on Menendez.  The result of this strategy is best summed up when veterans of the Hugin campaign brag that they “won six Congressional districts.” Too bad that in five of those six districts, the Republican candidate for Congress lost, including two incumbents.  

As recently as 2016, all six of those districts had been represented by a Republican.  Now, just one remains.

Writing in the New Jersey Globe today, David Wildstein notes the re-emergence of Bob Hugin, addressing a meeting of Mercer County Republicans, placing his stamp of approval on the state’s first transgender candidate for the Legislature.  Here we go again. Let’s not learn the lesson that $40 million wasn’t enough to convince voters that Republicans are more reliable social liberals than Democrats, instead… try, try again.

The candidate Hugin spoke on behalf of is Jennifer Williams.  She is running for Assembly in the 15th Legislative District, a district that Republicans have almost no chance of picking up in 2019.  But because Jennifer Williams is the first transgendered candidate of either party to run for the Legislature, she will become a focal point of the 2019 campaign cycle.  Williams worked on Hugin’s campaign, so perhaps Hugin will provide her with the resources to make her campaign even more of a focal point.

The trouble is, 2019 will be a low turnout election, and Republicans are not fighting a statewide campaign but instead, are fighting to hold on to a few remaining Republican enclaves.  Is this the time to be highlighting “a different kind of Republican” or is it time to drag everyone who is likely to vote Republican to the polls? And as for non-traditional Republican voters, are these more likely to be LGBTQ voters or poor working class Roman Catholics?  Yes, there are choices to be made and making one choice often negates the other. So which is the surer bet?

Unfortunately, from all the hype, all we know about Jennifer Williams is that she is what some call a “transwoman”.  That is likely to be of little use in motivating traditional Republican turnout and – in the era of Donald Trump – unlikely to motivate enough LGBTQ voters to make up for what you lose.  The hoopla resulting from this “first” will most certainly bleed beyond the borders of the 15th District, turning off and giving up as it goes.  So that Republicans could neither gain the 15th or the boost necessary to save endangered seats.

For the good of her party, Jennifer Williams should play down the significance of her “gender” and instead focus on a message that aggressively defines the Trenton Democrats as what they are.  But can Williams even use the term, “Trenton Democrats”, as a negative in Legislative District 15? Williams claims to be a “conservative”, well this would be the time for her to craft a message that illustrates what that means.

Candidate Williams has secured the endorsement of the GOP establishment in Mercer and Hunterdon Counties.  We suspect that there will not be much competition for such a thankless task. We wish her well but hope that she does not become the “face” of this year’s Republican legislative campaign in New Jersey, and we hope Bob Hugin doesn’t make it his mission to make it so.

The BCRO's strange fundraiser: Any rules broken?

We have written before about the GOP establishment's creep into conservative institutions like GOPAC.  Once this group was a vital source of grassroots activism.  Today, the establishment squats on it like it was a prime piece of property on a monopoly board.


Recently, GOPAC held an event, but it was it a GOPAC event?

How could Kim Guadagno and Congressman King be the guests at two different events held at the same place at essentially the same time?

Why is there no disclaimer on the BCRO invitation?  And what is the Bergen County Republican Finance Committee?  It isn't filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC)?  It doesn't appear to be associated with a Federal PAC. 

In promoting the event, the BCRO would later adjust the time to more precisely fit the GOPAC speakers event.  How could the speakers be in two events at the same time?

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Both these events were heavily promoted by the BCRO and GOPAC.  So whose event was it really?  Who got the money?  And to what account did the money go... federal or state?  How was the money used?  On behalf of which candidate?

Questions for the FEC or NJELEC?

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GOP screws up trying to appeal to the blue-collar Right

Look at that crazy shit they pulled in Burlington County.  Those over-the-top attacks on a Sikh, trying to make him out to be a Muslim.  Nuts! 

But that's how it goes when GOP establishment types try to fashion a message they think will appeal to conservatives.  They don't try to communicate to Bill Buckley -- it's more George Wallace they have in mind (except, he was a Democrat).  GOP moderates think poorly of their conservative brethren, and it shows by the way they try to motivate us to vote their way.  They do more than talk down to us... they use grunts.

Case in point:  The Burlington County freeholder election that resulted in victory for two Democrats and accusations of over-the-top campaigning against one of the Democrats, a Sikh.  Now calling a Sikh as Muslim is just plain ignorant.  The Sikhs are like the Scots and are the backbone of the military class in India, a decidedly non-Muslim nation (although Muslims are free to worship there).  You could not ask for a more loyal comrade to fight beside than a Sikh.

According to some of the media coverage, GOP radio ads mocked the candidate's last name, Singh, which means "sovereign prince" and is common to male Sikhs.  This is as silly as mocking the "Mc" or "Mac" that means "son of" in Gaelic names or the "ski" (also "sky" and "ska", female) that means "from or of" that ends many Slavic names. 

This fellow was running on a ticket with "sanctuary state" Phil Murphy and is part of a party that has embraced the Women's March co-chaired by a genuine radical named Linda Sarsour.  It was Sarsour who called for "jihad" against the elected government of the United States of America and the Women's March that honored terrorist cop-killer Joanne Chesimard.  There are plenty of real things to call out the Democrats on without getting silly about it.

Here's the problem.  The GOP establishment actually believes that its base -- that unwashed mass of voters who are either working class or grew up working class --are a bunch of racists who think in terms of skin color.  In fact, they are not.

But they do think in terms of jobs and opportunity.  They know that the same party that says it's helping them with the minimum wage is screwing them by flooding the market with cheap labor and then failing to give a damn as the gray economy expands and the on-the-books economy contracts. 

Standing in opposition to Phil Murphy and the Democrats' plan to make New Jersey a sanctuary state is not about the color of anyone's skin -- or their religion, or their shoe size.  It is about milk on the table and a roof over your head.  It is about losing your job to a non-minimum wage robot and having to cobble together three jobs in the gray economy -- while competing against the whole world.  Because globalists like Phil Murphy have advocated the economics of outsourcing your jobs while advocating the economics of cheap illegal labor.

Ever ask yourself why the globalist lobby dominated United States government makes it so easy to come and work here illegally but such a bureaucratic pain-in-the-ass to apply for legal residency and citizenship?  The answer is easy:  They want it this way.

Politicians like Phil Murphy appreciate the functionality of illegal immigrants because for them they represent the modern equivalent of slave labor.  They eat poorer, live in poorer housing, and cannot complain about it -- either as voters or members of a labor union.  And they block the ability of legal workers to collectively stand up to crony capitalism.  That is pretty good if you are a global crony capitalist like Phil Murphy.

Here is a primer on how Murphy and the Democrats intend to screw the working people of New Jersey:

A "sanctuary state" will mean a huge influx of people who need the social services safety net more than average.  The Democrats have promised to impose a so-called 'millionaire's tax' that will chase away those who currently fund the state's social safety net.  Those who are left... the middle class who can't leave because of a job, or because they can't sell their home for what they paid for it, or because their child wants to finish school -- they will have to make up for the shortfall in higher taxes.

That won't be easy, because at 26.1% of income, the cost of living in New Jersey is, according to Bloomberg, by far the most expensive in the nation.  Meanwhile, state household income is nearly seven percent lower than it was in 2008 and has only grown by a little more than one percent since then. 

Those coming to the new Sanctuary State of New Jersey will enter the workforce of the gray economy, where the minimum wage doesn't apply.  But for everyone else it does -- which will leave trade union workers, manufacturing, medical care and health workers, service industry workers, and mothers with part-time jobs all at a disadvantage when competing for a job.  It will be bad news for people trying to pay their mortgage, their property taxes, those hoping to avoid foreclosure. 

And just where will all these newcomers to the Sanctuary State of New Jersey reside?  Why in subsidized sanctuary housing -- courtesy of COAH and its plan to build tens of thousands of new subsidized no-questions-asked units throughout New Jersey. 

This will require massive infrastructure investment by taxpayers -- and an increase in property tax collections.  To pay for it, the Democrats intend to scrap the 2-percent cap on local government spending.  Under the Democrats property taxes rose an average of 6.1 percent a year -- triple the rate of inflation.  Since the cap, property taxes have gone up an average of just 2.1 percent a year.

On top of this, there is the question of what happens to the flow of illegal narcotics, human trafficking, crime, and terrorism when you set out to obstruct law enforcement:  Do those ills go up... or down?

In short, what is wrong with candidate Balvir Singh is that he is Democrat.  As a Democrat, he is part of a party whose platform calls for higher taxes for everyone and the destruction of the social safety net; less job creation and greater economic uncertainty; and using property taxes to subsidize a flood of opportunity-killing cheap labor.  That is anti-worker while refusing to confront modern day slavery and it will make working people poorer,  more susceptible to foreclosure and poverty, and more vulnerable to violent crime and terrorism.

Unless Balvir Singh stands up to his party and openly fights it (or becomes a Republican) he will be one of the bad guys and worthy of defeat.

Webber should follow Reagan, not Koch

Assemblyman Jay Webber, born February 1972.  First eligible to vote in 1990.

For many, Ronald Reagan is only remembered as "The President" -- never as the conservative outsider who was a royal pain-in-the-butt to the GOP establishment.  It might be forgotten now, but even after 1980, New Jersey was a hot bed of GOP resistance to the Reaganization of the party.  It could be argued that the Reagan Revolution -- at least as far as the Republican Party was concerned -- never took hold in New Jersey.

What did take hold in New Jersey was the Darwinian vision of Charles & Donald Koch -- that screw-the-poor, devil-take-the-hindmost brand of economic libertarianism which holds that if you have enough money, your will should trump all.  And that goes for electing members of Congress, as well as destroying the traditional folkways of communities to suit your business model or personal preference.

But that wasn't Reaganism.   Ronald Reagan stood for the traditional conservative values of the small community.  One of those values is paying your own way.  Like most good conservatives of that period, Ronald Reagan supported user taxes over broader tax schemes.

Of the gas tax, Reagan said:  "Good tax policy decrees that wherever possible a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service. Our highways were built largely with such a user fee - the gasoline tax. I think it makes sense to follow that principle in restoring them to the condition we all want them to be in."

The Koch Brothers have never believed in paying their own way.  The Kochs' lobbying operation -- of which Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a part -- have been successful in steering $10.5 billion of taxpayers' money their way.  NJ AFP recently put out a press release calling the gas tax "regressive" and claiming that it hurt the poor.  That's the same argument the Left uses against the Flat Tax and in support of our complicated, corrupt "progressive" income tax. 

As late as October 2014, Assemblyman Jay Webber stood with Reagan when he wrote:

"New Jersey leaders are grappling with three major problems: New Jersey has the worst tax burden in the nation, our economy suffers from sluggish growth, and our state's Transportation Trust Fund is out of money. There is a potential principled compromise that can help solve all of them.

Of the three problems, the Transportation Trust Fund has been getting the most attention lately, and for good reason — it's broke. There is just no money in it to maintain and improve our vital infrastructure. Without finding a solution, we risk watching our roads and bridges grow unsafe and unusable and hinder movement of people and goods throughout the state. That, of course, will exacerbate our state's slow economic growth.

Proposals to fix the trust fund have included a mix of cost cutting, reallocation of current spending, borrowing and increasing taxes. While I prefer some combination of the first three options if done smartly, more and more it sounds as if that last option, in the form of an increased gas tax, is a popular choice for many legislators on both sides of the aisle.

But increasing the gas tax in isolation will only worsen New Jersey's biggest problem — an already-too-high tax burden. So any gas-tax increase should only be accompanied by measures that will help alleviate, or at least not increase, the overall tax burden on New Jerseyans. To that end, we should insist that if any tax is raised to restore the trust fund, it be coupled with the elimination of a tax that is one of our state's biggest obstacles to economic growth: the death tax. By any measure, New Jersey is the most extreme outlier on the death tax, with worst-in-the-nation status.

... The good news is that New Jersey's leaders finally are realizing that our confiscatory death tax is a big deal. A bipartisan coalition of legislators has shown its support for reforming New Jersey's death tax, and Gov. Christie has pledged to sign a proposal to reform the death tax if the Legislature sends it to him.

Which brings us back to the Transportation Trust Fund. Given the recent public statements by bipartisan leaders on both the death tax and the trust fund, there is a very real opportunity to forge a consensus that can address all three of the problems outlined above. We can replenish the trust fund and achieve a net tax reduction for New Jersey. (Taxpayer savings from the elimination of the death tax would eclipse the gas-tax increases currently proposed.) Doing both, in turn, would help improve our economic competitiveness and stimulate job creation."

Now it appears that some conservatives, like Webber, might be shifting their allegiance to Koch.  Why?  Maybe it's just that they don't remember when Donald Koch ran for Vice President on the libertine ticket against conservative Republicans Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  Koch ran on a party platform that called for the "elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for those people who have entered the country illegally."

The Koch platform supported abortion at all stages of pregnancy, the legalization of narcotics, legalized prostitution, and allowing children the same legal rights as adults in these and other matters.  Donald Koch despised Ronald Reagan and everything he stood for. 

Ronald Reagan was a social as well as an economic conservative.  He believed in an America built on Judeo-Christian values and the Western tradition of free speech and free markets. 

If Donald Koch had been elected in 1980, instead of Ronald Reagan, that famous "It's Morning in America" ad (1984, re-election) would have featured chirpy abortionists, hard-working drug dealers, and child prostitutes.  So why are conservatives like Webber bending low to Koch now?

Once Ronald Reagan was safely out of office, the Kochs stepped in to start a project that changed the nature of conservatism in America.  From using their wealth to dominate libertarian think tanks -- like the Reason Foundation -- their money opened doors into more traditionally conservative venues.  While it might seem as though it's been around forever, the Kochs' political flagship, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) was founded in 2004 -- twenty years after Ronald Reagan last appeared on a ballot.

AFP is not a grassroots organization.  Its so-called "members" do not have a vote on electing who runs AFP -- either at the state or national levels.  AFP gets its money from Koch Industries and Koch Industry apparatchiks hire coordinators for each state, whose job it is to "motivate" and "activate" the "members."  In short, it is a very effective astroturf lobbying model. 

And what do they lobby for?  Koch Industries is owned by the Koch brothers, Charles and Donald Koch.  It is the second-largest privately held business in America.  Its core business is petroleum.  Koch Industries owns and operates oil refineries across America and overseas.  They control enough pipeline to crisscross our nation.  The petroleum lobby adamantly opposes a tax on the products they sell, whether that tax is at the retail or wholesale level.

The question that conservatives should now ponder is whether or not they will follow the Koch brothers in undermining the candidacy of presumptive Republican nominee for President Donald Trump.  One Koch brother has already suggested that liberal Democrat Hillary Clinton would be preferable to Trump, and now the other has announced that he will donate to the GOP but not to the Trump campaign.

The continuing metamorphosis of the Republican Party into a pro-amnesty for illegals, pro-tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas, pro-crony capitalism, pro-corporate welfare, pro-LGBT everything, anti-American worker, anti-Middle Class, anti-Christian, anti-traditional values, anti-Bill of Rights, and increasingly open to repealing the Second Amendment , was achieved in a great part through the hostile takeover of the conservative movement by big money.

It is time we found our roots again.