GUADAGNO TO CRITICS: I HAVEN’T BEEN SILENT!
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno launched her 2017 gubernatorial campaign in Keansburg on Tuesday by meticulously explaining, in her own words, what she views as her leading role in New Jersey’s limited but significant economic successes of the past several years.
The theme? She pledges to do “better.”
“As lieutenant governor, I haven’t used my cell phone to take calls from power brokers looking for a favor,” Guadagno said to a packed house at La Playa, a local Mexican restaurant rebuilt in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “Instead, I’ve been focused on doing my job to help the people of New Jersey solve real problems and make government work for them.”
But if her opening salvo was a little light on details (these things always are) concerning how she’d govern differently than Chris Christie, the many objectively funny jabs aimed at the incumbent governor whom she’s served for seven years made it clear that Guadagno unambiguously plans to chart her own course over the next year.
“We simply do not have the money to turn the statehouse into the Palace of Versailles,” said the GOP candidate, criticizing Christie’s controversial planned $300 million state house renovation plan.
“I don’t do the helicopter,” Guadagno quipped a few minutes later, referring to her boss’s controversial use of the state police’s helicopter available to N.J. governors.
Distinguishing herself from the unpopular governor remains a top priority for the gubernatorial hopeful; two recent polls found Christie’s approval rating in New Jersey below 20%.
Guadagno’s initial acts of independence (including leading the opposition to a gas tax-tied ballot amendment last fall) have earned her public rebukes from Christie, most recently when he schedule a bill signing to coincide with Tuesday morning’s campaign launch. Today’s speech unsurprisingly included not-so-thinly veiled references to Christie’s past attempts to bar her from media availability.
Anticipating an attack in this year’s primary battle (and the general versus presumptive Democrat nominee Phil Murphy), Guadagno promised that “[f]or those of you who think I’ve been silent the last 7 years, you haven’t been listening.”
One of those attackers wasn’t convinced by today’s latest acts of subtle rebellion.
“The Lt. Governor’s recent attempts to run away from the Governor after seven years of standing silently by his side in blind obedience are simply not credible. Republicans need a new message and a new messenger,” declared Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, himself a candidate for governor.
Guadagno worked as a prosecutor and the sheriff of Monmouth County, New Jersey, before successfully running with Chris Christie as his Lieutenant Governor in 2009 and again in 2013. Her Republican primary opponents include Ciattarelli, social media activist Joe Rullo, and Nutley Township Commissioner Steven L. Rogers. Veteran Saturday Night Live comedian Joe Piscopo is reportedly still considering a run as either a Republican or an Independent.