N.J. Gov. Joe Piscopo? Former SNL comic hopes he could harness 'Trump Effect.'
Comedian Joe Piscopo says President-elect Donald Trump's victory as an outside candidate has inspired him to seek office himself. But it's unclear whether or not Mr. Piscopo can harness the 'Trump effect' in his own campaign.
Former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Joe Piscopo isn’t joking about a possible political career.
Mr. Piscopo, best known for his Frank Sinatra impressions on the late night sketch comedy show, says he’s considering a bid for the New Jersey governor’s office in 2017 as current Gov. Chris Christie wraps up his second term in office.
"I'm seriously looking at it," he said, and has promised to make a decision in January. "I love the people. I love the state. I know what has to be done."
This isn’t the first time Piscopo has dipped his toes into politics. He considered a run in 2004, but never launched a campaign, meaning a 2017 race for governor of New Jersey would be his first.
The difference this time around, he says, is President-elect Donald Trump’s unprecedented success. While the billionaire businessman has never held elected office, he’s managed to use his outsider appeal to propel himself to the nation’s highest office, defeating former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who many believed would secure any easy victory thanks to decades of political experience.
"When I saw Mr. Trump in Tampa and he invited me to speak, I saw it was contagious. It was the movement,” Piscopo said. “It wasn't the machine.”
Piscopo hopes he can harness that same momentum that Trump used to captivate voters nationwide in his home state. A former Democrat, Piscopo says he’s become more conservative as he’s gotten older, and would run as an independent or Republican in the state’s June 6 primary.
Since leaving behind comedy as a full-time gig, Piscopo has hosted a three-hour-long morning radio show, which focuses on issues related to politics, New York City, and international concerns.
The state’s constitution bars governors from seeking more than two terms consecutively, and current Republican Gov. Christie has said it’s unlikely he would return to the office again.
"There would be no need for a second act as governor," Christie told reporters over the summer. "I think eight years is enough."
So far, Piscopo’s potential competition includes Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Ocean County businessman John Rullo, and Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers, who is an advisor of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrat Phil Murphy, who served as a diplomat in President Obama’s administration and as a Goldman Sachs executive, and state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who co-chaired the investigation into the 2013 Washington Bridge scandal, have thrown their hats into the ring.
With that kind of competition from political insiders, some are skeptical that Piscopo can recreate Trump’s success story.
"There's only one Donald Trump," Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics, told the Associated Press. "Just because he did it doesn't mean the playbook will work again."