If Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop can get the political bosses of the Democratic Party to coalesce behind him, there’s two easy paths to the governorship.
A lot of interesting candidates – Democrat, Republican, and independent/third-party – will be campaigning to replace Gov. Phil Murphy in 2025.
Optimistically, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is the gubernatorial candidate most likely to fix NJ Transit, alleviate the state’s housing crisis, and potentially usher in a new era of bipartisanship.
Realistically, a lot of voters don’t care about NJ Transit and hate the thought of multifamily housing being built in their town. Also, Fulop has “unpleasant baggage” unique to being Jersey City’s mayor for the past decade.
Not sure that stuff matters in a Democratic primary decided by party bosses, but a general election is a different beast. That’s why Fulop’s easiest path to victory are the following two scenarios.
1. Republicans win the White House in 2024
In that scenario, the winner of the 2025 Democratic primary will be the next governor of New Jersey. It’s nearly impossible to imagine otherwise.
Also, that scenario makes Fulop’s path to secure the party’s nomination easier. The top competition serve in Congress (Sherrill, Gottheimer), how could they campaign in New Jersey during a GOP administration’s first 100 days?
2. Democrats keep the White House in 2024, NJGOP nominates a culture warrior
In short, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s candidacy revealed that any half-decent Republican can win the off-year election given the right circumstance. The problem is Ciattarelli didn’t have a real plan to attract voters and significantly “move the needle” in the state’s biggest cities – which is the NJGOP’s existential problem.
To keep things on the safe side, any Democratic nominee would surely favor a Republican opponent that’s more of a firebrand in the mold of Donald Trump than a pragmatic operator like Chris Christie.
If the NJGOP nominates a candidate that can sell a vision and lead an operation that embraces vote-by-mail/early voting, any Democrat will have a real fight on their hands. In that scenario, “unpleasant baggage” matters in a general election that will garner national attention.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see Fulop promoting the idea of NJ 101.5’s Bill Spadea as the future Republican nominee in a tweet dunking on Ciattarelli. Simply put, it’s hard to imagine any MAGA personality winning New Jersey.
Nevertheless, if Spadea is really in it to win it, the mayor should be careful about who he wishes to debate. The conservative radio host won’t win the election, but he could damage Fulop’s brand in ways other Republicans cannot.
On a final note, sources say Fulop’s already hired a prominent firm to conduct opposition research on himself. I wonder if anyone doing “oppo” could identify potential liabilities in the video below (Spadea’s line at the end is a laugh for sure):