This year, GOP legislative leadership from LD 21 will vie for more than just bragging rights over who assembled the best 2013 tickets.
They could be competing to lay claim to more party grativas points toward a statewide campaign.
Republican sources say state Sen. Tom Kean (R-21) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) are both well positioned in party leadership to take a statewide stab, maybe U.S. Senate the next time there is a vacancy.
Not that state Sen. Joe Kyrillos’s (R-13) 19-point pummeling at the hands of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) last year means Republicans whose names aren’t Chris Christie are kicking the doors down to go statewide.
But Kean ran once (defeated by Menendez in 2006), and Bramnick has always kept an eye on statewide situations and could help himself by fielding a good – and ultimately successful – squad for runs in district races on tickets topped by Christie.
While Bramnick hustles for candidates, district-mate Kean is making similar rounds – with possibly the same two-pronged endgame in mind.
Like his lower house district-mate, Kean wants to show the GOP he can field winning candidates – and he too wants to keep himself in the forward rank of party brand names who could succeed U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
A source close to the process said Kean is highly motivated to make sure the candidacies he helps put together don’t embarrass Christie.
Kean and Bramnick have different styles, certainly. The former comes festooned with the aristocratic bearing he inherited from his father, former Gov. Tom Kean Sr.
Tunnel rat political tendencies make Bramnick, by contrast, a working class kind of Republican, who grew up behind the counter of his father’s Plainfield shop.
A key legislative ally of Christie’s, Bramnick is the Assembly version of state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40): someone with a mechanical sense of politics and willingness to work across the aisle with Democrats.
A source close to the legislative process told PolitickerNJ.com that the self-styled tough guy governor appreciates the way Bramnick works, but also acknowledged that he picks up the phone when former Gov. Kean makes that phone call.
In any event, regardless of who has the edge, while Newark Mayor Cory Booker opens a U.S. Senate account and Lautenberg’s staff walks back stories about their boss retiring, Kean and Bramnick are not talking about U.S. Senate.
“I’m so busy traveling filling slots for the coming legislative races,” Bramnick told PolitickerNJ.com.
He’s responsible for putting butts in seats, namely GOP brands in those currently occupied by Democrats, and using the coattails of Gov. Chris Christie to accomplish the job.
Sources talk about the target districts in both the Senate and Assembly: 1,2, 4, 7, 18, 27, 38.
“We’ve got April deadlines and we’re 100% focused,” said Bramnick, who was traveling in South Jersey today in search of LD 1 candidates.
“We have a lot of people interested in running (with a strong Christie at the top of the ticket),” Bramnick said. “Years ago we had to seek people, but now they’re coming to us, and we’ve got some really good candidates.”
Good candidates are also what Kean and Bramnick hope to be – maybe in 2014.
There’s always the possibility that a self-funder could come in and bigfoot both of them, but if that happens, it won’t be Forbes founder Steve Forbes of Morristown, often circulated as a potential statewide candidate.
He told PolitickerNJ.com today he won’t run for the U.S. Senate.
“Not running, period,” Forbes said. “Politically an agitator, not an office seeker.”