HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - It’s the worst-kept secret in New Jersey political circles.

Jack Ciattarelli wants to be the next governor of New Jersey.

The Somerset County assemblyman continues to travel the state, lining up support for an expected run at the Republican nomination.

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Tuesday night, he confirmed that he will announce a decision the second half of September.

“It’s under strong consideration, and all indications at this time are ‘yes,’ " Ciattarelli said.

He was also on the phone Tuesday night with Hillsborough Committeeman Doug Tomson, who with Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caligurie were mentioned as potential replacements in a column on the PolitickerNJ website Tuesday afternoon.

“The Back Room,” whose readership is primarily politicians, journalists, bureaucrats and political junkies did not include any remarks from Ciattarelli, Caliguire or Tomson; all three said they were not contacted by the writer for comment. Tomson said he called and left a message offering to speak with the writer after the story was posted to the website.  

All three officials were at Hillsborough’s commemoration of Purple Heart Day on Monday.

“We’re all trying to be respectful of each other,” Ciattarelli said, but until he makes his formal announcement, “all other discussions are premature,” he added.

Caliguire, a Montgomery resident, and Tomson both said they’d be interested in the Assembly seat representing the 16th District, which encompasses Somerset and portions of Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex counties.

 “If Jack runs, then I would be very likely to run for his seat, but let’s see what happens,” Caliguire said Tuesday night. “Jack’s a straight-shooter; he’ll make his decision and we’ll go from there, but if he doesn’t get going by September, he’ll be way behind the eight-ball,” he added.

Caliguire was first elected to the Montgomery Township Committee in 2003, and later served as mayor. He was tapped to fill Ciattarelli’s seat as a county freeholder in December, 2011 after Ciattarelli resigned to fill out the final six weeks of longtime Assemblyman Pete Biondi’s seat, who died two days after winning re-election that November. Ciattarelli then began serving his own elected term in January, 2012.

“It’s far too early to be speculating on these things,” Tomson said prior to Tuesday night’s Hillsborough Township Committee meeting.

“That being said, I would love to represent the 16th District,” he quickly added.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Mark and if he runs for Jack’s seat, I would love the opportunity to represent Somerset County at the freeholder level,” Tomson said.

Tomson, Government Affairs Director for the New Jersey Association of REALTORS, emphasized he is content being a member of the Hillsborough Township Committee, a position he has held since 2012.

Ciattarelli would likely be opposed by Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadango in the June, 2017 GOP Primary as well as any other candidates. She was elected to office with Gov. Chris Christie in 2009 and re-elected in 2013. Their terms conclude in January, 2018, with the New Jersey gubernatorial election in November, 2017.

Ciattarelli, a resident of Hillsborough since 1998, was born in Somerville and grew up in Raritan, where he got his start in politics as a borough councilman.