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N.J. Assembly minority leader won’t seek GOP nod for governor

New Jersey Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick

New Jersey Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick

The top Republican in New Jersey’s Assembly will not run for governor this year.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who has long supported Gov. Chris Christie, said Christie’s declining popularity was not a factor in deciding against entering the race to replace him.

“This has nothing to do with Gov. Christie, whether he’s popular now or popular after Sandy,” Bramnick said Wednesday. “This has to do with my own personal decision to stay as Republican leader.”

Bramnick said he’ll run for re-election to his Assembly seat and work to increase the number of Republicans who are elected.

He also intends to meet with Senate GOP Leader Tom Kean to decide whether they’ll jointly endorse another Republican candidate in the governor’s race.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is now the front-runner for the GOP nomination, said Seton Hall political science professor Matthew Hale.

“She is the only Republican that has anything close to statewide name recognition. I think she is going to have access to Republican establishment money,” Hale said. “And, from what we can tell, I think she can be pretty effective in front of groups and be a decent campaigner.”

But Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said the Republican nomination is wide open.

“The real question is whether somebody like a Joe Piscopo or somebody really outside the norm gets into this,” he said. “It could really shake things up.”

Analysts say any Republican candidate will have a tough time defeating Phil Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive who’s the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

New Jersey voters will go to the polls Nov. 7 to elect their next governor.

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