But seriously, folks: Like many Jewish standup comedians before him, the Republican leader of the State Assembly is trying out some new material on the road.
“New Jersey needs some new laws,” District 21’s Jon Bramnick told reporters at the State House in Trenton on Aug. 7. “Like in the men’s room and the ladies’ room you must no longer have silhouettes. I look at these silhouettes and after a couple of drinks I don’t know which bathroom to go into.”
The Westfield legislator also proposed “the Gas Station Attendant Act: If you work in a gas station you should know directions to at least one place.”
And there was “the Health Food Store Act: If you work in a health food store, you’ve got to look healthy.”
Bramnick mixed one-liners and serious policy proposals during a news conference at which he and 14 of his colleagues outlined their plans to win GOP majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Currently, Democrats occupy 24 of the 40 seats in the State Senate and 48 of the 80 seats in the Assembly. Bramnick hopes to reverse those numbers after the election in November.
The 60-year-old attorney told NJJN that his wife is responsible for touting his comedic talents.
“On my 38th birthday, she entered me in the Funniest Lawyer in New York contest,” where he won second place, he said. More recently he won first prize as the Funniest Lawyer in New Jersey contest and has been performing his material at charity benefits for the past 25 years.
“I'm Jewish, but I’m not sure if I’m a Jewish stand-up comic,” the legislator said.
But he made a campaign pledge. “I will absolutely be doing stand-up comedy” as part of his party’s campaign to retake the Legislature. “I am going to use comedy to raise money, and I am going to talk about how not funny it has been for 10 years in the minority.”
Along with his legislative shtick will come what he calls “some not-so-funny stuff that is going to be about the campaign.
“It is not so funny that the Democrats raised your taxes,” said Bramnick. “It is not so funny that they were there for 10 years and didn't do their job. It is not so funny that Jon Corzine didn't do what he was supposed to do when he was governor.”
Fellow Republicans at the press conference echoed Bramnick’s rhetoric.
“If you vote for Gov. Christie you can't in any good conscience vote for a Democrat for the Legislature,” said Declan O’Scanlon (Dist. 13) of Red Bank. “If you do that, you’re cancelling out your vote for the governor. Give us a shot for the next two years to enact reforms, and if we don’t do that, kick us out.”
“Democrats have had 10 years,” Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (Dist. 25) of Randolph said. “During those 10 years they have taxed and spent the state into oblivion. Now it's our turn. It’s time to give Republicans a chance…. I look forward to campaigning with great candidates around the state to show what the Republican Party can do if we regain control of the Legislature.”
Questioned about a game plan, Bramnick said Republican candidates will campaign most heavily in districts “where we only lost by a couple of thousand votes. It's not that complicated. Look at the numbers. Where we were close we are going to win.”
In recent years, several states where Republicans hold the governorships and dominate the legislatures, some highly contentious laws have been passed. They restrict abortion rights, halt collective bargaining for public employee unions, and impose voter identification requirements that some consider discriminatory.
Asked whether liberal Democrats might fear similar laws enacted in New Jersey if Republicans gain full control, Bramnick told NJJN: “What you should fear is what has happened in New Jersey over the last 10 years, and that is poor fiscal policies, poor decision-making, and you can surely give the Republicans an opportunity for two years to see whether or not they are reasonable and fair on all issues. I think they would be very comfortable with Jon Bramnick being speaker of the Assembly.”
Should Republicans fail in their drive to take back both house of the Legislature, Bramnick said, he would probably not entertain the notion of a new career as a comedian. “I doubt it,” he said. “I’m not that funny.”