Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop announced first quarter fundraising for his 2025 Democratic gubernatorial nomination campaign as follows: $2.2 million raised and $40K on the expense side ($40k). He noted that 1) the total is the most ever raised by a non-incumbent gubernatorial candidate in his or her first fundraising quarter in New Jersey history, and 2) it was achieved in an abbreviated window since Fulop announced his campaign for Governor on April 11.
The $2.2 million raised will mean that the Fulop campaign will receive more than $6 million in additional public matching funds to be used in the primary election window.
The significance of Fulop’s fundraising goes beyond the numbers, however. They give him a basis for strong viability whether his candidacy is endorsed or opposed by Democratic power brokers, including state party leaders, county chairs, fundraisers, and major state elected officials, most notably legislators.
Fulop is not running as a revolutionary. He is not intent on the overthrow of the New Jersey Democratic Party established order. If nominated, he will seek party unity and will work with the powers that be.
Steve Fulop is, however, a principled reformer, and that is bound to unsettle major Democratic statewide establishment players. While Fulop will not run as anti-establishment, he will run as being independent of the establishment. This runs the risk of other candidates garnering most of the county Democratic lines in the 2025 primary.
The success of such an “independent reformer” candidacy as Fulop’s will be dependent on two factors: 1) having sufficient campaign funds to purchase advertising media to get out his message; 2) defections from “the line” to Fulop in counties where the establishment (i.e., the Democratic County chair) has endorsed a Fulop opponent. There are four potential sources of such defections:
1) Jewish voters
New Jersey has never had a Jewish governor, even though it has 440,000 Jewish adults, the fourth highest total of any state in the nation. Fulop is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and the product of Jewish day school education. His appeal to Jewish voters is unmistakable. And the Jewish vote is a major constituency in large Democratic-primary voter rich counties like Bergen, Essex, Passaic, Middlesex, Camden, and Union. These counties constitute a fertile field for Fulop to garner Jewish Democratic primary voters, regardless of who gets the line.
2) Grass roots progressive organizations
Progressives do not constitute a monolith, but they are among the least susceptible to the influence of the county Democratic primary line. This is particularly true of environmentalist Democrats – and Fulop has the strongest environmental record of any prospective Democratic candidate.
3) Municipal Democratic organizations
In any Democratic gubernatorial primary, municipal Democratic leaders, particularly mayors can obtain the support of many Democratic primary voters in their municipalities for their preferred gubernatorial nominee, regardless of whom their county Democratic organization supports. Thus far, Steve Fulop has obtained the endorsements of Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, Sr., Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, South Orange Mayor Sheena Collum, and Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach. These endorsements will translate into major sources of votes for the Jersey City mayor.
Almost invariably, Democratic union voters are more influenced by the endorsement of their union than by the preference of the Democratic state or county establishment. These voters also turn out in great numbers. Thus far, Steve Fulop has the endorsement of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union International and New Jersey Council as well as four Teamsters locals representing thousands of active and retired workers. This is a major advance for the opening of the Fulop campaign.
It is way too early to predict a victor in the New Jersey 2025 Democratic gubernatorial primary. It is not too early, however to designate Steve Fulop in a strategic sense as the frontrunner for the 2025 NJ Democratic Gubernatorial nomination. He has earned that designation by his prodigious fundraising and his undeniable appeal to key Democratic primary constituencies. Barring some unforeseen development, he will be a competitor in this race all the way.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.
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