As slogans go, it’s not as catchy as the “Make America Great Again” mantra.
It’s not even grammatically correct.
But, for all the reasons state Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) offered Saturday for why he should not only should be the Republican nominee for governor in 2025 — and, of course, the winner of the general election — nothing summed up his campaign better than the four words on the hat he was wearing at his launch party in New Brunswick:
“Wanna Win Vote Bramnick.”
To be sure, Bramnick touched upon all the issues that Republicans usually do, including lowering taxes and increasing law and order (insert your thoughts on Jan. 6, 2021, here). But, more than anything, he addressed the biggest issue facing the party: How do you beat a Democrat in a state that has at least 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans?
Bramnick, 70, the longtime former Assemblyman (2003-21) who recently was elected to be a state senator, said he is uniquely qualified to do that for three key reasons:
- He has a history of winning elections in districts that favor Democrats;
- He’s willing to move to the center on issues;
- He’s willing to speak against Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd.
Which of these factors is most important isn’t clear, but his willingness to speak against Trump (he has repeatedly since Jan. 6, but not as much Saturday) make it more likely for folks to support reasons No. 1 and 2, he said.
The Republican Party in New Jersey needs to clearly identify who it is — and what it stands for, he has said. And that means standing against Trump and those who continue to preach his big lie about how the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
“And as long as we’re defined by these Republicans who won’t accept the decision of courts, we’re in big trouble,” he said at an event at Fairleigh Dickinson University last November.
Doing so will help build back trust in the party in New Jersey.
“The view of our Grand Old Party has changed, and, as a result, we’ve been losing election after election after election,” he said Saturday. “We have always been the party of law and order, but, if we want to continue to be the party of law and order, we cannot make excuses for the rioters on Jan. 6 who were hitting police officers over the head with sticks.”
And building back trust, he said, is the only way the party — which suffered heavy losses last November — can get back in the win column.
“To those potential Republicans who are running against me, who promise our Republican voters that you will rule this state far to the political right: Not only can’t you do it, but you will lose the election, and the only thing that will change is that the Democrats will become more extreme,” he said.
The state can’t be about one-party rule. It needs to be shared governance, he said Saturday.
“It’s clear to me that we must bring balanced public policy back to Trenton,” he said. “Policies that reflect the views of the majority of our citizens.
“In order to bring balanced policy, we need two political parties in Trenton, and electing a Republican governor will require the Democrats to compromise, ending the constant drumbeat of ballooning budgets, tax and fee hikes, and soft-on-crime policies rubber-stamped by the Democrats.”
Will it be enough? That remains to be seen. Bramnick needs to walk a fine line where he attempts to appeal to both the party and the general electorate at the same time.
It’s something that former Gov. Chris Christie was able to do successfully — twice.
Bramnick, who has long hinted at runs, said he’s finally ready to give it a shot. It’s why he feels he’s a better candidate than former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who nearly beat Murphy in 2021 and has been campaigning for the 2025 nomination ever since (though not formally declaring) — and anyone else (media personality Bill Spadea also has talked of joining the race).
For Bramnick, it comes down to one thing.
“Let’s stop losing elections,” he said. “Let’s give thoughtful reasons for voters to support us.”
The hat said it all.