Ex-Senate candidate Hugin likely to lead N.J. Republican Party after Ciattarelli backing

Ex-Senate candidate Hugin likely to lead N.J. Republican Party after Ciattarelli backing. Bob Hugin, the wealthy former pharmaceutical executive and U.S. Senate candidate, is poised to become the next leader of the New Jersey Republican Party.

Two days after winning the party’s nomination for governor, former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli on Thursday endorsed Hugin to become chairman of the Republican State Committee.

Traditionally, the party’s gubernatorial nominee chooses who will head the party in New Jersey. The party is expected to formally vote him in within the next few weeks.

“Bob Hugin is a self-made successful businessman, Marine Corps veteran, and the best possible leader for the NJGOP at this time,” Ciattarelli said in a statement.

“His fundraising capability, organizational skills, and proven leadership qualities will usher in a new era for the Republican Party in New Jersey. I am proud to have Bob as a member of this team and look forward to seeing the incredible momentum and success that we can accomplish together.”

“The goal is to win this November,” he added. “Bob can help us do that up and down the ticket.”

Hugin, the former CEO of Celgene Corp., lost his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Mendendez in 2018 despite spending $36 million of his own money on the race.

In December, Hugin made a last-minute attempt to win the state party’s chairmanship but lost to Michael Lavery, a former Hackettstown mayor.

Lavery is an ally of former party chairman Doug Steinhardt, who at the time was challenging Ciattarelli for the Republican nomination for governor before dropping out abruptly a month later. Ciattarelli had endorsed Hugin at the time.

Hugin will take over a party trying to unseat Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat seeking a second term. That will be a challenge.

No Democrat has been re-elected governor in New Jersey since Brendan Byrne in 1977, though voters went for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in consecutive elections in 2001 and 2005. But while Murphy’s numbers have dropped from the sky-high perch they sat at in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, polls continue to show a majority of New Jerseyans approve of his performance.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll published Tuesday found Murphy leading Ciattarelli by 26 percentage points, while 52% of New Jersey voters don’t know who Ciattarelli is.

There are also now nearly one million more registered Democrats than Republicans in the Garden State, with the party having added more than 200,000 in recent years.

Republicans are also trying to make inroads in the New Jersey Legislature, where Democrats have controlled both houses since 2001.

All this comes as the the state GOP is grappling with the lingering influence of former President Donald Trump, whom polls show is widely unpopular in New Jersey yet still popular with the party’s base.

New Jersey and Virginia are the only states with governor’s races this year and are the first major races after President Joe Biden unseated Trump. Thus, the races are seen as possible bellwethers for next year’s midterm congressional elections.

Trump endorsed Hugin in 2018, though Hugin often distanced himself from the then-president. Trump later said Hugin and other Republicans lost that year because they didn’t embrace his message.

Montclair State University hosting 18 commencement ceremonies (PHOTOS). More than 400 students graduated Thursday from Montclair State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences as the Essex County college continued its seven days of commencement ceremonies.

From Monday through Sunday, 18 ceremonies will be held and more than 3,800 students will graduate, while 5,044 degrees will be conferred by the university. Last year, due to the coronavirus, the school held 23 mini outdoor commencement ceremonies.

Thursday’s ceremony featured Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole, College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Peter Kingstone and Advisory Board Esteemed Speaker and Montclair State alumnus Altair M. Gobo as speakers for the class of 2021.

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