TRENTON, NJ - State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-16th, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, announced yesterday that he had undergone successful surgery for throat cancer in November, and will be curtailing his campaign schedule temporarily.
Gearing up for a primary campaign against several other Republicans who want to run for New Jersey, Ciattarelli, a Hillsborough resident is scheduled to appear at a “Kick-Off” reception Thursday, Jan. 19 at the Somerville Elks, 375 Union Ave. from 6-8 p.m.
His voice raspy after a full day of interviews and answering questions, the 55-year-old Ciattarelli said he hopes to honor that commitment.
"One of the more dire consequences of radiation is that you can lose your voice," he explained. "If we're headed towards that Monday or Tuesday, we may have to postpone, but as of right now, it's still on," he added.
"One thing about Jack, he's resilient," said Rick Rosenberg, campaign manager.
"The surgery was a great success, the survival rate for someone my age and in my condition is excellent and I'm done with my radiation treatments, so that is a good story line," Ciattarelli said. "I just have to curtail my schedule for the next couple of weeks.
"What I am feeling you can't see, it's in my throat," he continued. "I thought I'd be that one out of one hundred who wouldn't get hit with the side effects, but it's starting to hit me. The facts are the facts in terms of what I'm feeling right now," he said. "And quite frankly, it started to feel like an 8,000-pound gorilla on my back to not share it with the public."
Ciattarelli said he noticed a lump in his neck shortly after launching his candidacy in Manville Oct. 4th; he was diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, affecting the back of his throat and tonsils.He underwent surgery Nov. 15th and had the cancer and lymph nodes on both sides of his neck removed.
Since mid-December, while campaigning and meeting with GOP leaders and voters up and down the state, Ciattarelli has been receiving radiation therapy treatments five days per week.
“As a husband, father of four, successful small business owner and State Assemblyman, I am accustomed to juggling a busy schedule and never skipping a beat,” said Ciattarelli. “My intention was to power through these treatments without any impact on my campaign, but, as so many other New Jerseyans unfortunately know, cancer is a tough adversary.
"The good news is that after consulting with my radiation oncologist Sung Kim, MD, Medical director of Radiation Oncology at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, my prognosis is excellent, and despite being forced to miss out on events later this month and early next, I expect to be getting back to full speed in the latter half of February.
"It was important to me that I be fully transparent with my health, and shoot straight with both voters and the media about my condition," he said at the Statehouse press conference.
"One, because honesty matters when you aspire to being Governor of New Jersey. And, two, because I am hopeful that my story encourages someone else to get any suspicious lumps or sudden an unusual snoring checked out immediately. Yes, life is busy, but your health comes first. Early detection and treatment saved my life, and it can save others.”
Two of the cancerous lymph nodes removed from the left side of his throat were Stage 4 cancer.
Ciattarelli also revealed he had undergone a full body CAT scan prior to his operation and the results were negative for cancer anywhere else in his body.
Ciattarelli said that outside of some modifications to his schedule, including the use of surrogates for some events later this month, his campaign intends to continue the momentum they’ve built since last fall. Ciattarelli indicated he will continue to personally communicate with party leaders and Republican voters via the phone, email and social media when treatments and/or their side effects prevent an appearance in-person.
“I decided to run for Governor because I love New Jersey and am passionate about taking us in an entirely new direction," Ciattarelli said. "This experience has only strengthened my commitment to winning this campaign and solving the serious problems facing our state.
“I am incredibly blessed and fortunate to have the love and support of my wife and four children, as well as my friends. I am also fortunate to have an exceptional team of competent and compassionate physicians who have all provided me the highest quality of care.”
Ciattarelli, a fifth-term state Assemblyman representing towns in Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties, is a Hillsborough resident who served as a Somerset County freeholder prior to his election to the Assembly.
He is a lifelong resident of central New Jersey; he was born and lived in Raritan, where he also served on the borough council. His campaign office is on Main Street in Somerville, where he also owns a medical publishing business. He is a Certified Public Accountant with degrees from Seton Hall University.
Ciattarelli declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination in October outside Manville High School, a backdrop chosen carefully to reflect the major thrust of his campaign – school funding and property tax reforms.
The state primary is June 6th.
“We need a comprehensive and dynamic plan that solves our property tax crisis, that creates economic opportunity and good-paying jobs, and that sets the stage for long-term prosperity and security for all citizens,” Ciattarelli said, “a plan that restores and revitalizes New Jersey as a great place to live, work and retire - a plan worthy of bi-partisan support.”
He is a frequent critic of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, most recently voting against the package backed by the lame-duck governor that increased the state’s gasoline tax by 23-cents a gallon.
Ciattarelli’s campaign is also focused on improved bi-partisan communication, streamlining government and crafting an equitable solution to the state’s beleaguered public employee pension plans.
Ciattarelli began criss-crossing the state long before his formal announcement three months ago to detail his solutions for New Jersey. He continues to do so and is expected to outline his plan at the Jan. 19th reception.
One state lawmaker who was seen a s major competitor for the GOP nomination announced last week that he had decided against running for governor.
Jon Bramnick, Assembly Majority Leader and member of the Assembly since 2003, said that it is more important for him to stay put, and work to increase the number of Republicans elected to the Assembly and state Senate.
Other announced candidates are Steven Rogers, a Nutley township commissioner and Joseph Rullo, an Ocean County businessman.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who has served alongside Christie since his election in 2009 and reelection in 2013 filed her paperwork with the Election Law Enforcement Commission yesterday.
Another potential candidate is New York drive-time radio host Joe Piscopo, who was a “Saturday Night Live” cast member on the long-running NBC show along with Eddie Murphy and others during the mid-1980s. Piscopo is a resident of Lebanon Township in Hunterdon County.
Tickets for the Jan. 19th reception are $50; tickets for members of the Republican County Committee are $35, and those 35 and younger will also pay $35. RSVPs are required - email@example.com or 609-468-8282.
Beer, wine and light refreshments will be served.
Ciattarellli was also scheduled for another fund raiser in his hometown of Hillsborough Feb. 10, a Martini Party hosted by the Hillsborough Republican Election Committee, 6-9 p.m. at The Landing, 311 Amwell Road, Hillsborough. Single tickets are $75, $110 per couple. Further information is available at 908.458.2612.